Infomotions, Inc.The relation of John Locke to English deism. / Hefelbower, Samuel G

Author: Hefelbower, Samuel G
Title: The relation of John Locke to English deism.
Publisher: Chicago : Univ. Press, [1918]
Tag(s): locke, john, 1632-1704; deism; deists; english deism; locke; religion; revelation; john locke; focal concepts; deistic movement; two focal; natural religion; cambridge platonists; religious; evidential value; god; rational theologians
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Professor of Philosophy in Washburn College 
Tofeka, Kansas 



All Rights Reserved 

Published December 1918 

Composed and Printed By 

The University of Chicago Press 

Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. 


Probably all students of English thought of the 
sixteenth and seventeenth centuries recognize some sort 
of relation between John Locke and English Deism, but 
they differ as to how they are related. Some writers 
make him a part of the movement, others consider him 
its father, and several of the leading historians of philos 
ophy merely note the fact that there is some relation 
without denning it. 

This monograph undertakes to show that these 
statements are wrong or inadequate, and that Locke and 
English Deism are related as co-ordinate parts of the 
larger progressive movement of the age. 

When widely accepted historical opinions are chal 
lenged, proof of the thesis to be established should be 
made accessible to the reader and should be as complete 
as possible. Accordingly the book is to a great extent 
a tediously detailed marshaling of evidence. 

The discussion of the belief in Providence and the 
statement of the attitude of the progressive leaders 
toward toleration in the fifth chapter do not contribute 
to the solution of the problem. The former is introduced 
here because it is generally believed that the "absentee 
God" was a characteristic of Deism, which it was not; 
and the presentation of the latter is necessary because 
some writers use it to prove that Locke was a Deist, 
which it does not prove. 

The quotations from Locke are from Eraser s edition 
of the Essay and from the tenth edition of his works. 

June, 1918 




i. The Remote Historical Background I 

-J 2. English Thought in the Seventeenth Century . . 6 

*3. The Problem u 

4. Possible Solutions 12 


1. In the Histories of Philosophy and Related Studies 17 

2. In the Special Study by Crous 24 

3. Resume 27 


1. A Possible Source of Error in the Genetic Method . 31 

2. The Nature of the Problem Determines the Method 32 

3. The Method Indicated for This Problem .... 33 

4. Result of This Study of Method 42 


i. Origin of the Two Focal Concepts of Rationalistic- 
Critical Speculation 45 

The Use of the Concept of Nature 50 

A. The Rational Theologians 50 

B. The Philosophers 53 

C. The Deists 57 

D. Conclusion 61 

3. The Use of the Concept of Reason 63 

A. The Rational Theologians . 64 

B. The Philosophers 67 

C. The Deists ........ f .... 74 

D. Conclusion 78 

viii Contents 



1. Concerning God I ..... 83 

A. Proofs of the Existence of God 83 

B. The Relation of God to the World .... 90 

a) Providence 90 

b) Miracles 94 

2. Revelation and Scripture 101 

3. Religion 116 

A. The Importance of Natural Religion . . . .117 

a) The Rational Theologians 118 

ft) The Philosophers . . . . . . . .120 

c) The Deists 126 

B. Religion Denned as Morality 133 

4. Toleration 141 


1. Locke s Influence in England after 1688 . . . .151 

2. The Temporal Relation of Locke and the Deists . 153 

3. Direct Evidence of Locke s Influence on the Deists 154 

A. Toland 156 

B. Collins 159 

C. Tindal 160 

D. Wollaston . . . ,165 

E. Bolingbroke 165 

F. Morgan 167 

4. Conclusion 169 


1. Resume . . . . . . , . . . . . . . 172 

2 . Definition and Comparison of Locke s Religious Opin 
ions and Deism 176 

3. Theories Tested by Facts 178 

INDEX 187 




The problem concerning the relation of John Locke 
and English Deism arises out of a situation that had been 
developing slowly for a long time. A full account of its 
origin would lead us back centuries to the beginnings of 
the New Learning in Italy. The scene had shifted, 
other interests had appeared; but the dominant motives 
were essentially the same. In the political, the social, 
the religious, the philosophical, and the scientific strife 
and movements of this time we have the age-old struggle 
of humanity for freedom. Man is so constituted that 
awareness of limitations is felt as a perpetual challenge 
to throw them off. Men felt this in Italy in the thir 
teenth century; they were conscious of it in England in 
the seventeenth century; the resulting movements 
differ because conditions had changed. 

When the Renaissance dawned in Italy, it did not 
find the general confusion that we often associate with 
the Middle Ages. On the contrary, the civilization at 
that time was strongly organized. There was one cen 
tral authority that dominated everything everywhere. 
Henry IV defied it, and in order to carry out his political 
plans he found it necessary to make peace with Pope 
Hildebrand at Canossa. Abelard was condemned by 
councils, and he was imprisoned and his books were 

2 John Locke and English Deism 

burned because his views were not approved. In the 
period of the Renaissance we see the same centralized 
authority dictating what men should think. Pompo- 
nazzi changed his teaching concerning immortality, fear 
ing the anathema of Leo X; Bruno was burned; Galileo 
denied scientific conclusions to escape a like fate. 
Ecclesiastical authority approved and established sys 
tems of philosophy and theories of the universe; and 
to think differently was a sin against God, punishable 
by his vicegerent upon earth. Of course such a con 
dition could not last; it must break down sooner or 
later, for "the thrust and kick of life" is felt also in the 
realm of man s spiritual interests, and whatever hinders 
here becomes intolerable. But men of the late Middle 
Ages probably did not feel the hampering conditions 
under which they lived as keenly as we might think, 
for the horizon of life s interests was narrow, and 
religion was their chief concern: the value of things 
here was estimated largely in terms of the life to 

But a new spirit was making itself felt; at the 
/* \ beginning of the fourteenth century Dante drew mate- 
A> \-rials for his masterpiece from classical as well as from 
T" biblical sources, and even acknowledged Virgil to be his 
teacher and master. And a generation later Petrarch 
as largely instrumental in starting that contagious 
, enthusiasm for all things of the ancient Roman and 
Grecian civilizations which resulted in raising up a body 
of men who loved learning for its own sake, and in giving 
European culture another center. Along with this 
growing interest in the humanities there also developed 
a scientific impulse. As early as the thirteenth century 

Introduction 3 

Roger Bacon had a fairly clear grasp of scientific 
methods, and characterized scholastic disputes as vain 
battles of words. Two hundred years later the Aris 
totelian cosmology collapsed before the new science. 
Man s horizon grew; he learned to know himself as a 
citizen of this world, and to think of the earth as a 
little member of the great universe. Conflict was 
inevitable; it was as if he were dethroning God and 
reverting to paganism. The wine of the new learn 
ing burst the old bottles of authoritatively given 

In the northern country the Renaissance was soon 
accompanied by the Reformation; or, if you prefer, it 
soon became the Reformation. There were, of course, 
many and varied motives that helped to determine that 
complex movement of the sixteenth century; but it 
was fundamentally a revolt against human authority 
in matters of religion. As Luther put it: If a man is 
to be persecuted for his religious opinions, the hangman 
is the best theologian. 1 

This was a logical deduction from the right of private 
judgment, which was a basal principle of the Reforma 
tion. Unfortunately this was to remain but an ideal 
for another hundred years; that is, liberty of thought 
was the privilege only of those who had power to assert 
it. The new learning and the new religious movement 
were so entangled in the seesaw of the fortunes of 
political and personal interests on the Continent and in 
England that this toleration, which they had promised, 
remained, in part at least, unrealized. The English 

1 Luther s W erke (Weimar Ausgabe), VI, 455. 

4 John Locke and English Deism 

statute of 1400, which decreed death at the stake for 
heretics, yielded to the new spirit in 1533; but it was 
re-enacted under Mary and, nominally at least and 
sometimes actually, continued in force until I676. 1 
Even as late as 1648 Puritan zeal for orthodox belief 
caused an ordinance to be passed which made anyone 
liable to the death penalty "who denied the Trinity, 
Christ s Divinity, the inspiration of the scriptures, or a 
future state," and set prison penalties for other heresies. 2 
Fortunately this act did not result in persecution unto 
death. But in those troubled times in England, about 
the middle of the seventeenth century, the lot of the 
confessor of a disapproved dogma was very uncertain; 
thousands of clergymen were thrown out of their pulpits 
because they did not agree with the party in power; 
and, judging from the successive changes at Oxford, 
academic freedom was far from realization. 3 

However the right to private opinion was more and 
more recognized. Protestantism, in its appeal from 
papal authority, recognized the right of appeal; and this 
was resulting in greater freedom of thought. In the 
seventeenth century Holland in particular was the land 
of liberty, the place where Arminians and Socinians and 
Racovians lived and taught with practically no restraints. 
And in England many leaders had appeared who forsook 
the beaten paths, and yet were undisturbed. Important 
independent religious movements, more or less organ 
ized, were able to grow up and continue. Compared 
with almost all other countries, England was a land of 

1 J. B. Bury, History of Freedom of Thought (London, 1913), p. 59. 

2 Ibid., pp. 79-86. 

3 H. R. F. Bourne, Life of John Locke (London, 1876), I, 27 ff. 

Introduction 5 

liberty. And yet with that liberty often went persecu 
tion. As Bloimt, quoting another in the dedicatorial 
letter to his Religio Laid, very aptly expressed it: 
" Every opinion makes a sect, every sect a faction: and 
every faction (when it is able) a war: and every such 
war is the cause of God: and the cause of God can never 
be prosecuted with too much violence." 

It seems almost impossible that Protestantism 
should have been untrue to its fundamental principle, 
that liberty of thought should be denied by the party 
in power. And yet it is not so strange when we consider 
all the circumstances. Europe had long been schooled 
in the right of might, and it unlearned the lesson slowly. 
There was the usual inertia of hoary tradition, and the 
necessity of self-defense against those who would crush 
all who differed from them in religious matters; and 
what more complete defense than to overwhelm any who 
would steal away their hard-won liberties ! Furthermore, 
the strife and stress of theological controversies mingled 
with political conflicts required creedal definitions and 
the formation of systems of divinity. And once these 
were made it was easy to be intolerantly loyal to one s 
own religious beliefs. Perhaps it was necessary to 
defend them; and, ere they realized it, the anomalous 
condition of Protestant intolerance was a fact. When 
those confessions and systems became authoritative 
standards of types of religious conviction and eccle 
siastical organization, we have the age of dogmatism, 
when the spontaneous, living, inquiring spirit of the 
Reformation is replaced by dead orthodoxy. However, 
this hampered the development of religious thought less 
in England than in Germany. 

6 John Locke and English Deism 


The century of the Stuarts and the Commonwealth 
was a turbulent time of beginnings. Much that is best 
in England today can be traced to this age. The old 
order, stubbornly resisting every change, was slowly 
yielding to the new; and the waning, outlived notions in 
the various fields of interest mingled with the ideals that 
marked the opening of "anoOier epoch in England s 
history. The divine right of kings was crumbling; the 
Laudian scheme, which "was to exterminate all individu 
ality and freedom of conscience" and to enthrone 
"Prelatic tyranny" was becoming impossible. 1 The 
struggle for liberty was slowly getting the victory. In 
science and philosophy a new spirit was moving; men 
were turning from ancient masters to nature herself to 
learn of nature s ways the Baconian method was 
gaining followers. In the forties a group of interested 
scholars met weekly in London to foster experimental 
investigation. This is probably what Boyle called "the 
invisible college," which later became the Royal Society. 2 
Sydenham founded the new study of medicine on induc 
tive methods in England, and Boyle practically revolu 
tionized chemistry by championing "the empirical 
method in chemistry against the Alchemist." 3 

But still a great deal of serious thinking moved in the 
old scholastic ruts: When the Protestant theologians 
made their confessions and theological systems, they 

1 John Tulloch, English Puritanism and Its Leaders (London, 1861), 
P- i?9- 

2 C. R. Weld, History of the Royal Society (London, 1848), I, chap. ii. 

3 H. Hoffding, History of Modern Philosophy (London, 1900), I, 378. 

Introduction 7 

used the thought-forms, that is the philosophy, of the 
age; and in doing this they were conservative, as theolo 
gians generally were; they chose for the most part the 
old and accepted formulas of the traditional systems. 
Thus the metaphysical background of most English 
theology of this period was drawn from scholasticism. 
Now "men had become weary of Protestant scholas- / 
ticism. " J Toland s calling it a "scholastic jargon" was ^ 
not altogether the hostile gibe of an unsympathetic 
critic. 2 In fact Protestant theologians everywhere 
simply used the philosophical concepts that had been 
handed down to them from the former period. "The 
Reformation produced no immediate change in 
philosophy." 3 

Descartes was taught scholastic philosophy at La 
Fleche ; but this was to be expected in a Roman Catholic 
school. Bacon never wearies of exhibiting scholastic 
systems and methods as the great obstacles to progress. 
Philosophy was in ill repute because it concerned itself 
"in a multitude of barking questions, fruitful of con 
troversy, but barren of effect." One of the "distempers 
of learning" was the "contentious" learning, which 
must be removed if we are ever to advance. Even when 
Locke studied at Oxford in the middle of the century, it is 
evident that he received little more than the old scho 
lasticism, for he complained that the tune he spent in 
the study of philosophy was almost wasted, "because 
the only philosophy then known at Oxford was the 

1 Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Deism." 

2 J. Toland, Christianity Not Mysterious (London, 1702), Preface, 
p. xi. 

* A. Weber, History of Philosophy (New York, 1896), p. 277. 

8 John Locke and English Deism 

peripatetic, perplexed with obscure terms and useless 
questions." 1 The situation was somewhat different at 
Cambridge; there the dominance of the old system had 
been broken before Locke s student days at Oxford. In 
the closing years of the sixteenth century the new philos 
ophy was opposed by Digby, "a zealous scholastic and 
mystic." He was in turn attacked by Temple, who had 
largely adopted the point of view of Ramus, and thus 
Cambridge became the chief center of Ramism. 
Temple s successful opposition to scholasticism broke 
down hindering traditions and made Cambridge the 
center of the progressive tendency in philosophy, where 
later the school of Platonists flourished. 2 

Thus in England of the seventeenth century the 
general progress of civilization had not fully achieved 
freedom of thought; there was still such a thing as 
persecution for opinions sake. Even Locke s Letter on 
Toleration, which was probably the greatest plea for(i) 
that had been heard in England, expressly denied full 
liberty to atheists and papists. In theology much of 
the thinking looked backward rather than forward; it 
was content to appeal to symbols and authorities; it 
loved the traditional and was prone to heap scolding 
epithets upon innovators. And in philosophy there was 
still a vigorous contest between the outworn scholasticism 
of the Middle Ages and the new philosophy. Even as 
late as the last decade of the century Locke s Essay was 
refused recognition at Oxford. 3 Such in general was the 

1 Bourne, op. cit., I, 48. 

2 Weber, op. cit., p. 277; R. Falkenberg, History of Modern Philos 
ophy (New York, 1897), p. 63; Hoffding, op. cit., I, 187, 288, 377. 

* Hoffding, op. cit., I, 381. 

Introduction 9 

conservative tendency in English thought in the seven 
teenth century. 

But the fundamental principles of the Renaissance 
and the Reformation were progressively asserting them 
selves. The right of private judgment and the duty of 
free inquiry were claimed and exercised by an ever- 
increasing circle of independent thinkers. They did not, 
it is true, form a school or have any bond save this 
common recognition of the necessity of a change; but 
they represented the progressive spirit of the age. They 
saw that there was much truth that could not be forced 
into old forms, that the inherited systems were not 
adequate to meet the demands of new discoveries. 
Hence they undertook to adapt, to amend, to enlarge, 
or even to supplant the old. They sought to serve their 
age by giving it a system fitted to meet the new require 

They represented practically all fields of thought- 
theology, philosophy, politics, literature, and the 
sciences. And they were of practically every shade of 
opinion, from the relatively conservative thinker, who 
with hesitation departs as little as possible from tradi 
tional views, to the revolutionary innovator, who would 
make all things new. But whatever their field of 
interest and whatever their tendency, they agreed in 
this, that the old systems and methods were inadequate. 
They saw the need of new adjustments to meet new 
problems, and of freedom of thought in making these 
adjustments. Among themselves they disagreed in 
many ways and criticized each other freely. But as a 
group of thinkers they stand out in contrast with the 
conservative tradition-loving leaders described above. 

io John Locke and English Deism 

The line of demarcation, it is true, cannot be sharply 

drawn; it is difficult to determine where some men 

properly belong. But this is not necessary. It is 

sufficient to recognize the fact that at this time there was 

a conservative group of leaders who tended to maintain 

things as they had been, and that opposed to them, 

perhaps sometimes unconsciously opposed to them, there 

/was a group of progressive leaders who recognized the 


need of change and undertook to effect it. 

It is not necessary to call the entire roll of honor of 
England s sons who rightly grasped the problems of their 
age and made their contributions toward their solution; 
but it will be worth while to mention the leaders. The 
catalogue of the progressive thinkers of England in the 
seventeenth century begins with Hooker, although his 

work really lies in the previous century. In his great 
treatise on Ecclesiastical Law he marked a departure from 
servile tradition, and did not hesitate to appeal to reason, 
"sound reason," and "the higher reason," and to nature 
and to natural law. He is frequently quoted by his 
successors; Locke refers to him in the Essay as the 
"learned Doctor Hooker." Then there were the philos 
ophers Bacon, Hobbes, the Cambridge Platonists, and 
Locke; and such theologians as Hales, Taylor, Culver- 
well, Chillingworth, Tillotson, and others; and the 
statesmen Faulkland and Cromwell, and the poet- 
statesman Milton; and the whole generation of Deists 
beginning with Herbert; and the scientists, among 
whom Boyle, Sydenham, and Newton were the most 

, important. These were the leaders, men who left their 
mark on their times. This age had its share of great 
men; some of them are among the greatest the world 



has ever known. And together they broke away 
from tradition and raised English thought to world- 
leadership in their generation. We fail to appreci 
ate the heritage that we have received from them 
because we use it daily. 


For the present purpose we are concerned only with 
the party of progress in England of the seventeenth 
century. The conservative element comes into con 
sideration only as the common object of attack and 
criticism, because, in greater or less degree, it represents 
the spirit of opposition to free inquiry, which would 
check progress by clinging to systems and methods that 
had outlived their usefulness. 

We find that in a general way Locke and the Deists 
opposed the same tendencies "or principles. They are 
also associated closely in time. Locke entered upon his 
Westminster schooldays in the midst of the struggles that 
resulted in the establishment of the Commonwealth. 
In 1652 he became a student at Christ Church, Oxford, 
from which he received his Bachelor s degree in 1656 and 
his Master s degree in 1658. He continued as a member 
of the University in various relations until 1684. During 
his maturing youth and manhood he witnessed at close 
range two revolutions and the disorders that they 
occasioned particularly at the University. He began 
writing during the early sixties, although he published 
nothing until twenty-five years later. From this time 
until his death in 1704 he expressed himself through the 
press on a number of subjects political, economic, 
theological, scientific, and philosophical. The period of 

12 John Locke and English Deism 

his greatest activities lies between 1685 and the time 
of his death. 

Deism is dated from the closing years of the seven- 
%/ teenth century to about the middle of the eighteenth 
century at least this is the period when it was at its 
height. Its beginnings in England, however, reach back 
more than sixty years, and a decade or more before the 
appearance of Toland s Christianity Not Mysterious it 
was so strong as to call forth criticisms. Locke s years 
of greatest activity and the period of Deism overlapped, 
though the movement did not reach its highest point 
until after his death. 

Furthermore, as will appear more fully later, they 
have much in common, they often seem to speak the 
same language; in the midst of differences there are 
suggestive likenesses. 

In a general way Locke and Deism face the same foe, 
they are associated in time, and they show resemblances 
that seem to indicate a close relation of some sort. Our 
problem is to determine, so far as possible, what sort of 
relation exists between them. Is it merely a tempo 
ral elation, and are these resemblances without sig 
nificance ? Or if they have significance, what do they 
mean, what are we to infer from them, how are we 
to link together Locke and Deism in this period of 
English thought? Such is the task that is before us 
in this investigation. 


It will be well to begin this study by denning the 
possible relations that may exist. 

Introduction 13 

The solution of our problem might lie in the estab 
lishment of some sort of a causal relation between them ; 
in the theory that the one in some way and to some 
extent accounts for the other. Temporal connection 
would then have significance, and any likenesses that 
might be found could be explained quite easily the 
child would resemble the parent, and the parent the 
child. But then a further problem would appear: this 
causal relation can work in either one of two opposite 

A. It is possible that students of this period might 
be led to conclude that Deism was the source of the 
religious philosophical views of Locke; that, when we i. lu 
find Locke and the Deists discussing the same problems l j^ 9 
and setting forth similar views, Locke is dependent upon 

the Deists. But, as we shall see later, this theory is \. 
historically untenable. 

B. Or it may be that the causal linkage works in the 
other direction, that Locke accounts for Deism. This 
would be much more in harmony with what we know of 
Locke s relation to a number of other movements. He 
was a leader, a pioneer in thought; he dominated intel 
lectually his own and the succeeding period. He has 
gone down in history as the father of English Empiricism, 
the molder of the political ideas of the revolution of 
1688; and various other movements had their origin in 
him or were deeply influenced by him. Even without 
any historical data bearing immediately on the question, 
one would be tempted to conclude that Locke was in 
some degree responsible for Deism. There might be 
some trouble with dates, especially if we should empha 
size the earliest beginnings of Deism; but this theory 

14 John Locke and English Deism 

would easily explain the resemblances. We shall see 
in the next chapter that this view has been held by a 
number of historians, who cite facts that tend to support 
their position. 

Another possible theory that might co-ordinate the 
facts and define the relation between Locke and English 
Deism is the theory that they belong together, that they 
constitute one and the same movement, that, whatever 
else he may be, Locke is one of that group of men 
commonly known as Deists, who fostered free and 
critical thinking on religious problems. This hypothesis 
would have no chronological problem and would be 
supported by any resemblances that might be found. 
It could also account for many of the differences that 
would certainly appear; for Deism continued to develop 
after Locke s time; and it could be urged, with great 
plausibility, that the more extreme views, which did not 
altogether agree with Locke s relatively conservative 
positions, represented a further stage in the development 
of the same principles. The Deism of Tindal and 
Morgan is but the Deism of Locke grown up. Such a 
theory would have the advantage of simplicity, but it 
must be tested by facts. We shall find some scholars 
who hold this view. 

But there is another possible solution. The prob 
lem arises, as we saw, from the likenesses and differ 
ences between Locke and the Deists, who were adjacent 
in time. It may be that they are relatively inde 
pendent so far as causal linkages are concerned; it is 
quite possible that they do not form one group ; and yet 
they may be closely related in another way. Perhaps 
we can do fuller justice to the known facts if we consider 

Introduction 1 5 

Locke and the Deists related as elements which, with -J 
others, constitute a larger whole; that is, as parts of one 
and the same general movement. Lockian thought and 
Deism could then be represented as products or mani 
festations of the same Zeitgeist. They would appear as 
protesting against the same scholastic tradition and 
intolerance. But they were not the only ones who 
insisted upon the right of free inquiry. The spirit of 
progress was abroad; a new epoch was dawning, and it 
had many heralds. There was what we have already 
described as the progressive movement, which was made 
up of several different elements. There were the inde 
pendent and more or less rationalistic thinkers in the field 
of theology, there were the founders of English philos 
ophy, and the Cambridge Platonists, and the Deists 
beginning with Herbert, and many others. All these 
movements and men taken together constitute one 
general movement; and within it Locke and Deism 
appeared as co-ordinate parts. This would account for 
all resemblances, would leave room for differences, and 
would not exclude a certain degree of interaction. This 
position is not certainly and clearly taken by any of those 
who have studied this period, though Windleband and 
von Hertling seem to approach it. 

However we should not consider these possible 
theories concerning the relation of Locke and English 
Deism mutually exclusive. They rather point out the 
element in the relation that should be regarded as central, 
which determines the general type of explanation that 
is offered; they suggest points of view from which we 
can study the period. The acceptance of one theory 
does not mean that the others were entirely wrong; it 

1 6 John Locke and English Deism 

does not exclude the presence, in a subordinate way, of 
elements that are central in other theories. We have 
a complex historical field which we can view from many 
points ; we are seeking the point of view that will enable 
us to do fullest justice to known facts. 





The problem concerning the relation of John Locke 
and English Deism is not new; there are, in fact, very 
few students of the history of English thought who have 
not expressed their views on it. The conditions that 
gave rise to it are so patent that one cannot well read 
Locke and the Deists without coming upon it. You 
find men close to each other in time who frequently 
discuss the same problems and often use the same 
concepts in doing so ; and the question as to their relation 
is simply thrust upon you. 

As might be expected, there is not full agreement as 
to just what that relation is. Students of the history 
of philosophy are clearly aware of the problem, but there 
are perplexing elements in it that can be explained in 
different ways. The result is that the explanations that 
have been offered do not agree. Yet in spite of their 
divergence they tend strongly to emphasize all those 
factors that suggest a close causal linkage between Locke 
and Deism. 

Uberweg barely touches the problem. He very 
cautiously observes that "the philosophy of the so-called 
English Deists was more or less affected by the school 


1 8 John Locke and English Deism 

of Locke." 1 What does he mean by "the philosophy 
of the so-called English Deists"? Strictly speaking 
the Deists as a group had no philosophy. However, 
we may speak of a deistic philosophy of religion. If this 
is what he means, he makes Locke "more or less" 
responsible for Deism. 

Kuno Fischer does not really discuss the relation of 
Locke and the deistic movement; he calls attention, 
however, to the dependence of Toland upon the Lockian 
epistemology. He says: "Locke s Reasonableness of 
Christianity appeared the year before Toland s book. 
Toland went farther in this direction and denied every 
thing that transcends reason. He based his religious 
doctrine especially on Locke s epistemology; and the 
bitter struggle, which he called forth against himself, 
occasioned the attack of Bishop Stillingfleet on Locke." 2 
This is one of the most circumspect statements that we 
have found. What he says is fact; and he makes no 
sweeping generalizations. As will be shown later, 
Lockian epistemology is unimportant in the develop 
ment of Toland s thesis. However, Fischer s statement 
is open to several interpretations: "Toland went farther 
in this direction." It is evident from the context that 
he meant in the direction of rationalism. Was Locke 
responsible for Toland, or were they representatives of the 
same general movement, their respective points of view 
marking different stages in its progress ? Fischer does 
not tell us. Perhaps he was more prudent than others 
in refraining from making a more definite statement. 

1 Uberweg, History of Philosophy (New York, 1903), II, 375. 
3 Kuno Fischer, Geschichte der neuern Philosophic (Heidelberg, 
1904), X, 514. 

Solutions of the Problem 19 

Lechler touches upon this problem several times, but 
is also not very specific. After describing the develop 
ment of deistic thought up until the last decades of the 
seventeenth century, he says that there were but two 
things necessary for Deism to become a power: the one, 
the freedom of the press, which came in 1694; the other, 
an intellectual leader who could speak the watchword, 
and Locke was the man. 1 Later, in speaking of Locke s 
repudiation of the views of Toland in his controversy 
with Stillingfleet, Lechler observes: "Yet we cannot 
avoid the conviction that Locke was self-deceived, and 
that he failed to recognize the germs of opposition in his 
own system, which must necessarily develop in his 
school, because in his personal convictions he did not 
wish to oppose in any way the existing systems of faith." 
Locke s influence in shaping the deistic movement is 
recognized; but he is not expressly called a Deist. Yet 
his systems of philosophical and religious speculation are 
treated as if they marked a stage, perhaps as if they 
formed a stage in the development of the deistic move 

Leslie Stephen, in his generally thorough but some 
times confusingly detailed study of English Thought 
in the Eighteenth Century, makes a clear statement of his 
views. After speaking of the suggestiveness of the 
almost simultaneous appearance of Locke s Reasonable 
ness of Christianity and Toland s Christianity Not 
Mysterious, he mentions Locke s spirited repudiation 
of Toland, which he justifies, for "no child or clergyman of 
the present time could accept the plenary inspiration of 

1 G. V. Lechler, Geschichte des englischen Deismus (Stuttgart, 1841), 
P- 153- 

2O John Locke and English Deism 

the Scriptures with a simpler faith than this intellectual 
progenitor of the whole generation of eighteenth-century 
iconoclasts the teacher of Toland and Collins, the 
legitimate precursor of Hume and Condillac, the phi 
losopher before whom Voltaire is never tired of prostrat 
ing himself with unwonted reverence." Later, in his 
discussion of Toland, we learn that "the whole of his 
philosophy was substantially derived from his Master, 
Locke"; that he "is a follower of Locke, and in the path 
which leads to the purely sceptical solution of Hume"; 
that "Locke, the Unitarians, Toland, form a genuine 
series, in which Christianity is being gradually trans 
muted by larger infusions of rationalism"; and that 
"Collins was a favored disciple of Locke." 1 

Thus according to Stephen, Locke is the father of the 
revolutionary systems of the next century. It is true 
Locke himself strongly held to the supernatural factors 
in religion and saw no conflict between revelation and 
reason ; but he was the teacher of a generation that more 
and more denied all positive religion. "Locke strikes, 
in all subjects of which he treats, the keynote of English 
speculation in the eighteenth century." 2 Stephen makes 
him very largely responsible for later Deism. 

Very much in the same spirit we read under "Deism," 
in the latest edition of the Encyclopaedia Britannica: 
"In England the new philosophy had broken with time- 
honored beliefs more completely than it had done even 
in France. Hobbes was more startling than Bacon. 
Locke s philosophy, as well as his theology, served as a 

1 Leslie Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century (New 
York, 1876), I, 94 ff., 109, no. 
3 Ibid., p. 94. 

Solutions of the Problem 21 

school for the Deists. Men had become weary of 
Protestant scholasticism." 

Though Falkenberg says but little that bears directly 
on this problem, that which he does say is very clear. 
In his History of Modern Philosophy he tells us that 
"Locke s demand for the subjection of faith to rational 
criticism assures him an honorable place in the history 
of English Deism" and that the " development of Deism 
from Toland on is under the direct influence of Rational 
Christianity. " x 

Windleband holds a more conservative view and 
states it very circumspectly. He places Locke as the 
leader of the English Enlightenment. 2 Then later, 
in his discussion of natural religion, he notes the tendency 
of the Enlightenment to seek "the universal true 
Christianity by means of philosophy. True Christianity 
is in this sense identified with the religion of reason or 

1 Pp. 175, 181. Weber in his History of Philosophy, p. 391, says: 
"The freethinkers, who flourished in Great Britain and on the continent 
at the end of this period, and the philosophers proper, whom we have 
still to consider, are likewise descendants of Locke." Apparently Locke 
is as responsible for Deism as he is for Empiricism. H. E. Cushman 
in his Beginner s History of Philosophy (Boston, 1911) takes the same 
position as Weber. He traces various movements back to Locke, such 
as the empirical idealism of Berkeley and Hume, the sensationalism of 
the French and Deism. The Lockian philosophy of religion is made 
responsible for the deistic movement. And A. K. Rogers in his Student s 
History of Philosophy (New York, 1910) expresses almost the same!/ 
views. He says, "Deism was an attempt to get rid of the supposed! 
irrational elements of Christianity. It begins with a desire to explain \\ 
away the mysteries of church dogma, and to show that between revelation 
and reason there is no contradiction. Thus, in Locke, it calls man back \ 
from theology to the simplicity and reasonableness of the New Testa 
ment, whose one essential article of faith is the Messiahship of Christ." \ 
Deism is in the writings of Locke. 

* W. Windleband, A History of Philosophy (New York, 1893), p. 439- 

22 John Locke and English Deism 

natural religion." 1 This universal, true Christianity 
was at first " allowed the character of a revealed religion," 
which was in complete agreement with reason; revela 
tion is above reason but in harmony with it. Such was 
the position of Locke and Leibnitz. "Proceeding from 
this idea," the Socinians had gone farther, and, though 
recognizing the necessity of revelation, they accepted 
only that as revealed which was rationally accessible. 
The next step was to set aside revelation as superfluous, 
which was done by the English Deists. Thus Windle- 
band clearly places Locke in this historical lineage of 
Deism, but stops short of definitely identifying him with 
the movement; he suggests, but does not emphasize, his 
causal relation to it. 

Hoffding s view seems to be very much like that of 
Windleband, though he expresses it less cautiously. In 
his larger History of Modern Philosophy, it is merely 
touched upon. "The displeasure at Locke s theological 
standpoint was increased by the fact that it approxi 
mated so closely to that of the Deists that a work such 
as John Toland s Christianity Not Mysterious, which 
appeared in 1696, and which was publicly burnt at 
Dublin the following year, seemed only to be its natural 
outcome." 2 In his Brief History of Modern Philosophy, 
he states his views more plainly, without, however, 
committing himself very clearly to any theory which 
would make Locke the progenitor of the Deists. He 
says: " The English, j^efithiiikers (the so-called Deists) 
developed Locke s philosophy of religion more""fulI)Tiri 

W. Windleband, A History of Philosophy (New York, 1893), 
pp. 487, 488. 

1 Op. cit., p. 381. 

Solutions of the Problem 23 

the direction of a more pronounced rationalism." 1 He 
sees that there is a close resemblance between Locke s 
views and those of the Deists; so much so that Toland s 
book seemed to be the natural outcome of the Lockian 
position. The Deists merely developed Locke s philos 
ophy of religion farther in the direction of rationalism. 
He does not say that Locke is a Deist; but he holds that 
his philosophy of religion and the deistic doctrines form 
a continuous line of development. 

In the views of Windleband and Hoffding there is /\T 
some suggestion of the theory which presents Locke 
and the Deists as one movement, the acknowledged 
divergence being due to the fact that the Deists V>J 
from Toland on simply carry out that which was 
implicitly present in Locke s religious views from 
the beginning. Radical Deism would then be a 
later and more fully developed stage in the same 

It is either this view, or the one which makes Locke 
and the Deists constituent parts of one larger movement 
embracing other elements, that we find in von Hertling. 
He says : "Deism marks a further stage in the advancing 
development of rationalism in England. Locke and the 
theologians of Cambridge belong to an earlier period; 
but the development is thoroughly consistent." 2 How 
much does "ra^iojiaJism^Jn^England include? Is it Vj 
made up only of the Cambridge Platonists, Locke and 
the Deists; or are there also other similar elements, 
which with these constitute one movement ? From the 

1 A Brief History of Modern Philosophy (New York, 1912), p. 95. 

2 G. von Hertling, John Locke und die Schule von Cambridge, 
p. 176. 

24 John Locke and English Deism 

context we may infer that perhaps Tillotson belonged 
here; but we get no definite answer. 1 


In 1910 there appeared as No. 34 in the series 
Abhandlungen zur Philosophic und ihrer Geschichte a 
pamphlet by Ernst Crous, under the title Die Religions- 
philosophischen Lehren Lockes und ihre Stellung zu dem 
Deismus seiner Zeit. The fore part of this, that is Die 
Religionsphilosophischen Lehren Lockes, had been pub 
lished before as his Doctor s thesis, prepared under the 
guidance of Benno Erdmann. So far as is known to the 
writer, this is the only special study of the relation of 
Locke to Deism that has appeared; and it is limited to 
contemporary Deism. Crous devotes a little more than 
one page to the influence of Locke on later Deism. We 
give both his arguments and his conclusions in condensed 

After a brief presentation of the views of Herbert and 
Hobbes, he sets forth the essential elements of the Deism 
of this early stage as follows : 

Reason is to be thoroughly applied to every field of religious 
life: It decides concerning the claims of revelation; .... it 
investigates the essence and origin of religion; it places all religions, 
Paganism as well as Christianity, on the same basis, in that it 
brings them all before its own judgment seat; it seeks in all 

1 A. C. McGiffert in Protestant Thought before Kant (New York, 
1911) discusses rationalism in England from almost the same point of 
view (pp. 189 ff.). He puts Deism and at least some of the liberal 
theologians in one group, but he distinguishes men like Tillotson, 
Clarke, and Locke from the Deists and describes them as "supernatural 

Solutions of the Problem 25 

religions the higher unity of the religion of reason and nature, 
and undertakes to reduce Christianity as nearly as possible 
to this ideal; .... it finds the essence of piety in morality 
(pp. 96 ff.)- 

Toland, Collins, Blount, and Locke accepted this 
program, though Locke refused to go as far as Blount and 
Collins, who make reason our only source of religious 
knowledge. But in determining the relation between 
reason and revelation, which now becomes the great \/ 
question, Locke was the leader. He recognizes both as 
sources of human knowledge; however reason must 
decide upon the genuineness and sense of revelation. 
Thus in reality revelation is subjected to reason. This 
was a clear statement of the deistic doctrines. It is 
true we find certain modifications, but everywhere are 
the thoughts of Locke (p. 103). 

Though Locke, in the matter of biblical criticism, is 
much more careful than the Deists of his time, he agrees 
with them concerning the interpretation of the Bible. 
He "demands that we understand the Scripture in the 
literal sense, considering, however, the whole background 
and all the conditions that influenced its composition" 
(p. 104). 

According to the Deists the chief characteristics of 
true religion are clearness and reasonableness; reason 
can reveal to us all that is necessary to salvation; 
natural religion is superior to revealed religion. Locke 
did not share these views (pp. 105-6). 

But when we come to the teachings concerning God, -, t 
Locke again becomes the leader of the Deists. "He 
examines the formation of our idea of God and proves 
the existence of God, not from revelation or experience, 

26 John Locke and English Deism 

but from reason; and asserts that God s being is incom 
prehensible to us, though God can be known so far as 
such a knowledge is necessary for life and happiness." 
The writings of the Deists show plainly how influential 
Locke s teachings on this point were (p. 107). 
\/ "In complete agreement with contemporary Deism, 
and without any distinctive character of conception or 
statement, Locke holds that prayer, thanksgiving, and a 
virtuous life constitute the true worship of God. In 
agreement with Blount and Bury he considers morality 
the most important element in religion" (p. 109). 

That Christianity must be reasonable, and that it is 
/ really nothing else than natural religion, which the 
Deists sought to show, was essentially the opinion of 
Locke (pp. 110-12). 

"In the demand for toleration Locke stands on the 
same ground with all the Deists" (p. 112). 

According to Crous we can sum up the relation of 
Locke s philosophy of religion to contemporary Deism 

Locke is a Deist in so far as he appeals to reason in all religious 
matters. In the Deism of that period and in its field of interest 
, sometimes he is the leader, sometimes he is a fellow-worker; now 
he is forerunner, again he opposes the movement which is pressing 
; forward irresistibly. In demanding tolerance he was the leader 
; among the Deists. In the doctrine concerning God he advanced 
their cause when he applied his theory of knowledge also to the 
idea of God and furnished his own particular proof of His existence. 
; In delimiting reason and revelation he brought to a close the 
attempts of older Deism, and at the same time provided a basis 
for further discussion. It is true that in the question as to the 
essence of Christianity he offers no new thoughts, but he gave to 
the old deistic doctrines their most fitting expression. In his 

Solutions of the Problem 27 

explanation of the Bible, in his conception of worship, and in his 
judgment concerning heathenism he shared, on the whole, the 
current views of Deism without enriching them by his own con 
tributions. In his judgment concerning the meaning and value 
of Christianity he sought to mediate between the Deists and their 
opponents, and, finally, in biblical criticism he turns altogether 
away from Deism (pp. 113-14). 

Later Deism was not able to add anything to the 
discussion concerning the idea and being of God, or to say 
anything new on toleration. In the spirit of Locke it 
recognized the possibility of an external revelation but 
made its authority depend upon its conformity to reason 
and moral truth and evaluated it as a means of instruc 
tion or training. In the treatment of the problem of 
miracles they went far beyond Locke. In outspoken 
opposition to Locke, Tindal, Chubb, and Morgan limit 
Christianity to a renewal of natural religion. But later 
Deists show the influence of Locke: "Morgan especially 
conceives the meaning of Christian revelation exactly 
as Locke did" (pp. 114-15). 


It is not difficult to sum up the results at which the 
authors quoted have arrived. Several of them, espe 
cially Uberweg and Fischer, say little that bears directly 
on our problem. They are content to state the most 
important facts and stop there. They clearly recognize 
that there is some sort of relation between Locke and 
Deism, but they venture no theory as to what it is. 
Windleband recognizes a close relation between them, 
but does not place Locke among the Deists, though he 
clearly holds that he influenced the movement. Von 

a8 John Locke and English Deism 

Hertling recognizes Locke and Deism and the Cambridge 
Platonists as distinguishable parts of a larger movement, 
which he calls "rationalism in England," and which is 
not further denned. But a large majority of those who 
have offered solutions to the problem which we are 
studying consider Locke very closely related to Deism 
in a causal way, if he is not one of them: he is their 
"progenitor"; they "are the descendants of Locke"; 
"from his theory of religion came Deism"; he "has an 
honorable place in the history of Deism." In almost all 
essential respects he is one of them sometimes their 
leader, sometimes one who goes with them. There is a 
strong tendency to link him up very closely with the 
movement, to make him largely responsible for it or to 
identify him with it. 

The investigators in the field of the history of 
philosophy whose views have been set forth, with the 
exception of Crous, have given us their results, not their 
methods. However they had no occasion to do so. 
Their task was the reconstruction, in the form of a 
written account, of the course of the development of 
thought, more especially of philosophical speculation. 
Accordingly their chief purpose was to present to us the 
results of their investigations; they may or may not 
indicate the methods that they followed. And yet they 
frequently present their results in such a way that one 
can guess their methods with some degree of certainty. 

Looking over the passages cited above and studying 
them in their context, one cannot avoid the conclusion 
that the writers laid great emphasis upon the genetic or 
developmental way of viewing history. The individual 
systems appear as links in one great chain which extends 

Solutions of the Problem 29 

from age to age, from epoch to epoch, in the record of 
human thought. Locke s system was the normal devel 
opment of that which preceded him and had in it the 
germs of that which was to follow; or, using Stephen s 
figure, he was the progenitor of the eighteenth-century 
iconoclasts. That is the linear, the one-dimensional 
character of the development of thought is emphasized; 
the various systems are made to appear as successive 
units in a linear series. This way of looking at things 
in the past is modified somewhat in certain instances, 
particularly by Windleband (perhaps also by von Hert- 
ling), whose purpose is to trace the development of 
concepts rather than individual systems. As a result 
he emphasizes more than others the contemporary 
relations of the great leaders. Historical movements 
are made to appear as the work of many minds; the 
great men cease to be the sole bearers of progress; 
however they still remain leaders. That is Windleband 
emphasizes the fact that the course of the development 
of thought in any given period has breadth as well as 
the linear character: it is more like a web than a single 

In the special study of Crous we have a complete 
record of his investigations; we can follow him step by 
step to his conclusions; his method is as clear as his 
results. He too emphasizes the genetic way of interpret 
ing history; but in selecting his characteristic factors 
or characteristic points of view, which he traces from 
early Deism through Locke to later Deism, as well as in 
determining Locke s relation to contemporary Deism, 
he is satisfied when he establishes resemblance. Herbert, 
Hobbes, Toland, Blount, and Collins assign a certain 

30 John Locke and English Deism 

authority to reason in matters of religion; Locke does 
the same: therefore in this respect he is a Deist. All the 
Deists advocate toleration; so does Locke, and utters his 
plea more powerfully than any of them; therefore "in 
the demand for toleration he was the leader among the 
Deists." Without any critical study resemblance is 
naively taken as a criterion for relatedness ; the historical 
background, in which the resemblance appears, seems 
to have no meaning for him. 



We saw that in the study of the history of the 
development of thought the genetic method was pre 
ferred by those who have investigated this particular 
field. It is the method that now prevails in historical 
investigations. The idea of development shapes our 
thinking when we attempt to reconstruct the past; our 
age is under the spell of evolution. But there lurk in 
the genetic method, when it is applied to a study of the 
progress of thought, certain dangers that we must be 
careful to avoid. It is a selective method; it takes from 
the period that is under consideration that which later 
became historically significant. But there is danger 
here, for when you center attention on one factor in a 
period you are likely to ignore or underestimate the 
importance of other motives. That which later became 
historically important may eclipse all else. The result 
is that the history as reconstructed lacks elements that 
were influential in shaping the course of events when the 
history was being made. The genetic or linear view of 
the development of thought is that which we get when 
we travel the main highways of progress: we learn to 
know the great men whose thought marked epochs in 
the world s history; but we often miss their lesser fellows 


32 John Locke and English Deism 

who formed, as it were, the background on which the 
great men appeared, which helped to determine their 
positions, and without which it is impossible to make any 
historical reconstruction of a period that will do full 
justice to all its elements. The genetic method in the 
study of the history of philosophy is not rejected here; 
but attention is called to a possible source of error in its 
use. If it is not applied comprehensively and critically, 
we are likely to miss factors that were influential in 
determining the movements in the period that is under 
consideration. It will be used in this study, but it will 
be applied in such manner as is best suited to our present 


In one sense it is not difficult to define a proper 
method. In general we can say that a right method is 
such a mode of procedure as will enable us to realize our 
purposes. Now these, our purposes, whatever else 
they may be, are not capriciously chosen goals but are 
relevant to some particular field of interest. The tiller 
of the soil has problems pertaining to his sphere of action, 
which are determined by the needs to be supplied and 
by the other factors with which he deals. The questions 
that an architect must answer grow out of the situation 
that he, as an architect, is called upon to meet a build 
ing is to be reared by labor from certain materials, and 
his method of procedure at each stage is chosen in view 
of these factors. Likewise the student of history finds 
that his plan for reconstructing the past is determined 
both by the sort of reconstruction that is desired and by 

The Method 33 

the character of the materials that are available. The 
sort of reconstruction that is desired and the character 
of the given data are the two factors that constitute the 
nature of a historical problem. That is, the nature of a 
given historical problem determines the method to be 
followed in solving it. 


This investigation undertakes to determine, as far 
as possible, what sort of relation exists between Locke 
and English Deism. Or putting it in another form, How 
can we best conceive their relation, from what point of 
view can we get the best understanding of it? Which 
one of the possible theories concerning their relation 
enables us to co-ordinate the largest number of relevant 
facts in a significant way ? 

As has been shown, they are near each other in time. 
The span of Locke s life from 1632 to 1704 extended over 
at least a part of the life of almost every one of the 
Deists. But during their productive periods he was a 
contemporary of only a few of them; the deistic move 
ment proper did not reach its period of greatest activity 
until after his death. Furthermore Locke and Deism 
have much in common; in rational speculation in the 
field of religion they often discuss the same problems, 
and in doing so they use largely the same concepts. 

^ This would suggest the possibility of his having 
influenced it, that Deism was in some way and to some 
extent dependent on Locke; for it is a well-known fact 
that he exerted some molding influence on almost every 
movement of consequence of his own and the succeeding 

34 John Locke and English Deism 

There are two lines of investigation that are open to 
us here. On the one hand, we may compare the respec 
tive systems and note the resemblances and differences 
and then interpret this simple relation of resemblance 
in terms of some other relation which may be closer, 
perhaps in terms of causal linkage or of co-ordinate 
relation as members of a larger whole. And on the other 
hand, we can search the contemporary literature for 
data that may help us to define the sort of relation that 
exists between them, for in order to know how Deism 
is related to Locke we must know how both are related 
to thinkers of their own and previous periods. 

With the situation stated in this way, it would seem 
that the methodological problem is simple. Get your 
catalogue of likenesses and differences and interpret them 
critically, collect your other data and draw your con 
clusions. But in making any comparisons whatsoever 
between Locke and Deism for the purpose of establish 
ing likenesses and differences, and in searching out 
historical linkages between them, we have already tacitly 
assumed that we know what we mean when we speak of 
Locke and English Deism; we presuppose that they are 
clearly defined historical units. Now a clear definition 
of a system of thought, either for the purpose of com 
parison or with a view to searching out its historical 
connections, is such a description as contains all of its 
characteristic features, that is, those elements that mark 
it as different from other systems of thought, that set 
boundaries so that you can treat it as something definite 
and clearly distinguishable. Hence if you want to find 
out what a system of thought really is, you cannot do 
so by studying it in its isolation; you must study it in 

The Method 35 

connection with other related systems; definition points 
you beyond the thing defined to the background in 
which it appears. 

Furthermore when you undertake to define two 
systems of thought for the purpose of making a com 
parison between them, it is assumed that the comparison 
shall have meaning relevant to some purpose. In the 
present instance the comparison between Locke and 
English Deism is to have significance for the determina 
tion of the sort and degree of relation that exists between 
them. For this end mere likeness is of little or no value. 
It could have no more sense or significance for the 
purpose in view than there would be in saying that two 
men resemble each other in that both have excellent 
health, when the purpose is to compare them as scholars. 
If likenesses and differences, which constitute com 
parison, are to have meaning, they must be relevant 
to the field of interest, which is determined by our 

But a further question now arises. How can we 
know when a given likeness or difference has significance 
for the determination of the kind and degree of relation, 
or when is a comparison meaningful for our purpose ? 
To answer this concretely : We find both Locke and the 
Deists urging toleration. Is it significant for the solu 
tion of "our problem to say that Locke and the Deists are 
alike in this respect ? Not at all, for we shall see other 
men and other groups of men advocating it also. Again 
we find both Locke and the Deists magnifying the impor 
tance of grounding religion rationally and emphasizing 
natural religion. Here we have another resemblance, 
but we cannot tell what it means until we have examined 

36 John Locke and English Deism 

other systems adjacent in time and have determined 
what role these motives played in them. That is, if, 
in the determination of the relation between Locke and 
Deism, we are to use comparison, the likenesses and 
differences that we use must be significant for our 
purposes, and we can recognize such significance only by 
studying them on the background of the thought of the 
age in which these systems appeared. 

One feature, therefore, of our problem is a study of 
Locke and Deism in relation to English thought in the 
seventeenth century and the first half of the eighteenth 
century, which is the period in which these systems were 

However it may not be necessary for us to concern 
ourselves with all the various fields of human interest 
of this age; it is possible that that which is relevant to 
our purpose can be found within a comparatively small 
and well-defined portion of it. But in order to get the 
general background and to define in it our particular 
field of investigation, we must first make a survey in 
large outline of the thought of the age. We must, in a 
general way, see what men are thinking about and what 
motives control their thinking. We must note what 
general tendencies prevail. Then we can define systems, 
first in terms of interests or subjects thought about, and 
second in terms of tendencies of thought or points of 
view. And having defined Locke and Deism in this way, 
we shall have a foundation for making comparisons and 
getting other historical data that will enlighten us con 
cerning the relation that exists between them. 

When we seek to bring the thought of this age into 
a comprehensive outline, we can probably do it to best 

The Method 37 

advantage by grouping it about four chief, centers of 

First, there were the politico-economic interests 
which concerned everybody. Probably in no other 
sphere of life is the evidence so plain that this was a 
period of transition. Within less than half a century 
the government had been overthrown three times. 
Perhaps in no other period of English history has 
political life been so intense. There were long-continued 
and bitter parliamentary and military conflicts, and 
the public debate by means of books and pamphlets was 
most vigorous. 1 

Second, there were the religion and theological 
interests, in which we, at least for the seventeenth 
century, include the ethical. Perhaps the age was more 
noted for sectarian rivalry than for piety. But be 
that as it may, the situation in the field of organized 
religion and this included almost everybody was 
intense. The principles of toleration were slowly 
gaining; but the rule of the Peace of Augsburg was to a 
large extent enforced by the party in power. 2 The 
administration of the affairs of the church was entangled 
with the political fortunes of the nation. All parties 

1 "It has been computed that within the twenty years from 1640 to 
1660, not less than thirty thousand pamphlets and treatises issued from 
the press on the subject of ecclesiastical and civil government." M. 
Curtis, Locke s Ethical Philosophy (Leipzig, 1890), p. 4. 

2 During the controversies that accompanied and followed the 
Reformation, there was a modus vivendi agreed upon at the Diet of 
Augsburg in 1555, according to which the princes could select the type 
of faith they preferred and enforce religious conformity to it in their 
respective realms. The principle of the religious peace of Augsburg was 
cujus regio ejus religio.. 

38 John Locke and English Deism 

agreed in the conviction that the state must take account 
of the religious welfare of its members. 1 Thousands of 
clergymen were turned out of their pulpits because they 
refused to recognize the changes ordered by those in 
authority. 2 There were also the vigorous pamphlet 
debates, to which almost all of the great men of the day 
contributed. 3 However toward the close of the seven 
teenth century and during the fore part of the eighteenth 
century, the religious life of the nation waned-. 4 

Third, there were the scientific interests, which 
occupied the attention of some of the greatest minds of 
the age. In true Baconian spirit men were ceasing to 
reason out how things must be and were beginning to 
observe how they are. Perhaps no fact has more sig 
nificance in this connection than the founding of the 
Royal Society for Improving Natural Knowledge. It 
was the century of Harvey, Boyle, Sydenham, and 
Newton. The number of real scientists was growing, 
but there were still comparatively few. 

Fourth, there were the philosophical interests, which 
were represented by a still smaller number of learned 
men. Bacon was perhaps rather a maker of programs 
than a philosopher; Hobbes conceived a great mechan 
ical system, but he stood alone and had practically no 
followers; Locke founded the empirical school of 
philosophy; and the Cambridge Platonists were an 

1 Bourne, Life of John Locke, I, 1-66. 
3 Ibid., p. 96. 

3 Hobbes, Milton, Boyle, Newton, Locke, and many other scholarly 
laymen, and almost all of the prominent clergymen. 

4 Abbey and Overton, The English Church in the Eighteenth Century 
(London, 1878), I, i, 2. 

The Method 39 

influential group. There are never many philosophers 
in any period, and there were not many here; but some 
of them were pathfinders. 

There were these four great fields of human interest. 
Within each one of these four fields, there were two 
divergent tendencies, the conservative and the liberal. 
And though all shades of opinions were represented, 
broadly there were but two parties, the conservative 
and the liberal. 

The conservative party represented -the hold that 
tradition always has on the minds of many men. It 
sought to avoid change, to maintain things just as they 
had been; it was prone to appeal to authority, to deter 
mine issues of today by yesterday. In politics it 
generally stood for the divine,j:4gfet-0f-tings ; in religious 
matters, for revived scholasticism- in : theology and for 
intolerance; 1 in_science it opposed the Baconian reform; 
and in "philosophy it was still quoting Aristotle and the 
Schoolmen. 2 

Over against this conservative, tradition-loving 
group was the critical or rationalistic or liberal party. 
As we shall see later, it protested against tradition and 
authority in the name of reason and nature. 3 It used 

Bishop Sprat in 1667 felt that it was necessary "to defend the 
Fellows from the attacks and criticisms of Aristotelian philosophers. 
.... He tells us, indeed, that the objects and cavils of the detractors of 
so noble an Institution, did make it necessary for him to write of it, not 
in the way of a plain history, but as an apology." Weld, History of the 
Royal Society, I, Preface. 

3 Bourne, op. cit., I, 47. 

3 These two focal concepts of progressive speculation were inherited 
from a former period; an account of their origin and use would be inter 
esting, but it would not be relevant to our problem. 

4Q John Locke and English Deism 

these two concepts for correcting or criticizing or ground 
ing institutions and for constructing systems. It 
represented a constructive and progressive motive as 
well as critical; it was by no means merely the expression 
of a negative spirit. 

Though these two tendencies of thought are present 
in each of the four fields of interest described above, for 
the purposes of this investigation we can limit our atten 
tion almost wholly to the rationalistic-critical move 
ment, for it is here that we find Locke and the Deists. 
The conservative motive in the thought of England of 
this period concerns us only as a common object of 
attack for all the progressive thinkers; hence it has a 
negatively determinative value. 

We shall now submit a tentative definition of Lockian 
,. thought and of Deism. As we shall see later, it will be 
inadequate ; in some respects we shall require something 
more definite. But it is sufficient for the purpose of 
determining more closely our field of investigation and" 
for pointing out the lines that must be followed. In 
making this preliminary definition for our guidance, we 
have no difficulty in getting Locke s views; we know 
where to look for them, they are easily accessible. But 
when we come to the Deists the task is not so simple. 
As is generally the case with a movement or school of 
thinkers, it does not have a clear outline. We are, as 
it were, feeling our way, looking for the path that will 
lead us to our goal. For the present we accept as proper 
representatives of the deistic movement only those 
thinkers who have been generally recognized as con 
stituting the movement when it was at its height 
Blount, Toland, Collins, Tindal, Wollaston, Woolston, 

The Method , 41 

Morgan, Chubb, and Herbert Jwho was the father of the 
movement in England. 1 

In politics Locke was Jiberal; the Deists showed 
little or no interest. 

In theology and religion Locke was rationalistic and 
critical in method and conservative in results; 2 the 
Deists were rationalistic and critical in method, and in 
their results were increasingly hostile to positive Chris 
tianity. 3 

In science Locke was liberal and progressive; the 
Deists showed no interest. 4 

In philosophy Locke was progressive, his method 
was rationalistic and critical; in so far as individual 
Deists had a system of philosophy, it represented the 
new movements. I 

We could define in like manner any other men or 
movements of this time, but it is not necessary. We 

1 Hoffding, History of Modern Philosophy, I, 379; Falkenberg, 
History of Modern Philosophy, p. 179. 
3 Essay, IV, xviii, 5, 6. 

3 Toland wrote Christianity Not Mysterious to prove that there was 
nothing in religion that was above reason. He accepted miracles (pp. 47, 
90, 147) and assumes the divine origin of Scripture (Preface, pp. xv, 
xxiv, 4, 18, 38, 41, and elsewhere). When we come to Tindal, we find 
in Christianity as Old as Creation (London, 1735) a certain hostility to 
miracles which is not well denned; they have no evidential value (pp. 
200, 370). "There are no miracles recorded in the Bible, but many of 
the like nature are to be found in pagan histories" (p. 192). He unhesi 
tatingly sets up natural religion as the norm for all religions (pp. 59, 67, 
69). Morgan asserts that so-called supernatural revelation cannot be 
relied upon, for there is confusion everywhere and man has nothing left 
but reason (Physico-Theology). These opinions may be taken as typical 
of the deistic movement when it was at its height. 

4 Bourne in his Life of John Locke gives several accounts of observa 
tions that he made in medicine and of his interest in the scientific dis 
coveries of Boyle, Sydenham, and Newton. 

42 John Locke and English Deism 

shall have occasion to refer to their formative principles 
and to their conclusions, but it would not further our 
purpose to define them here. 

From the definitions of Locke and Deism just given, 
it is clear that our field of investigation is limited; it 
covers only a part of the whole sphere of interests of 
England of the seventeenth century. Toleration has a 
political aspect, but it can be considered along with the 
religious interests. The deistic philosophy and its 
relations are unimportant. Both will be studied with 
the direct internal evidences of dependence of the Deists 
on Locke. Thus our investigation is limited almost 
exclusively to the theological and religious field and to 
the liberal thinkers in it. 


In summing up this study of method we find that 
we can determine the sort and degree of relation 
that exists between Locke and English Deism, first, by 
making comparisons that is, by setting forth likenesses 
and differences, and then interpreting them critically; 
secondly, by collecting and interpreting other relevant 
historical data. Both of these operations involve clear 
definition which is the determination of characteristic 
features; and this can be done only with reference to 
the whole background on which Locke and Deism 
appeared. Thus our investigation leads to a more or 
less extended study of the whole liberal movement of 
this period. 

But we are confronted at once by an embarrassing 
situation. We are to make a comparison, and a compari 
son presupposes that we have already clearly denned the 

The Method 43 

elements that are being compared; whereas we have 
thus far only tentative definitions of Lockian thought 
and Deism. There is confusion and contradiction here 
that cannot be avoided. It arises from the fact that 
in the last analysis definition and comparison are not 
separable processes. Perhaps we should say that they 
are the same process regarded from the points of view of 
different interests. In definition we set forth the char 
acteristic features of that which is defined for the pur 
pose of identification, and in comparison we do the 
same for the purpose of studying it in certain relations. 
The two processes advance pari passu. There can be 
no clear definition which is not ultimately a comparison, 
and there is no comparison which does not at least to 
some extent define. In this study we shall gradually 
approach our definition of Locke s religious views and 
of Deism by the progressive elimination of factors that 
by critical comparison are found to be irrelevant. We 
shall then see what the likenesses and differences that 
exist between Locke and Deism mean in terms of some 
other relation. 

With this understanding of the scope or our investi 
gation, we shall first compare Locke and Deism with 
respect to their point of view. Both were rationalistic, 
both appealed to nature and reason in their speculations. 
We shall study the use that was made by them and by 
others of these two focal concepts. 

Then we shall compare the conclusions at which they 
arrive concerning disputed points in the field of theo 
logical and religious interests. But in order to do this 
we must take into consideration the teachings of their 
contemporaries who discussed the same subjects. 

44 John Locke and English Deism 

And finally we shall examine the direct evidences of 
relation between Locke and Deism. 

This is simply the genetic method with more emphasis 
than usual placed upon the study of contemporary 
thought. It aims to avoid the error that is likely to be 
made if the linear character of the development of any 
movement is so emphasized that significant factors are 
neglected. A number of those whose views have been 
quoted in chapter ii seem to have committed this error. 
It is as if they found certain elements in Locke, and find 
ing them in Deism, perhaps further developed, they 
conclude, apparently without any further investigation, 
that Locke accounted wholly or in very large measure 
for Deism or was a part of the deistic movement. 1 

This method also differs widely from that which 
Crous followed in his special study, as set forth in the 
preceding chapter. He also makes comparisons between 
Locke and Deism. But in the method that is advocated 
here, agreements and differences are studied critically on 
the background of what others were thinking at the same 
time, and they are interpreted in the light of con 
temporary thought. Whereas Crous simply noted like 
nesses and differences, and, without determining their 
significance by a more extended comparison with what 
other men were then thinking, rather naively balances 
his list of likenesses and differences and concludes that 
in most respects Locke was a Deist. 

1 If we may venture a theory as to whence this conviction arose, we 
would suggest that it may be due to Voltaire, who considered Locke the 
father of all eighteenth-century movements, including the very radical 
systems of France. When the writers of histories of philosophy discuss 
Voltaire, their style has the vividness that is characteristic of the pres 
entation of first-hand information; while their description of the English 
Deists often has a hesitant and somewhat uncertain manner which may 
indicate that their information is, in part at least, second hand. 


At this time everybody, at least every progressive 
thinker, appealed to nature and reason in grounding 
institutions and principles. In this Locke and the 
Deists agree; both were rationalistic and critical in 
method, as were also the other representatives of the 
progressive movement. The Deists differed from Locke / 
and the other liberal thinkers in that they applied the 
rationalistic method more radically. " 

In setting forth the use that was made of these two 
focal concepts of speculative thought in England in the 
seventeenth century and the early part of the eighteenth 
century, it will be convenient to study the progressive 
thinkers in three groups: the Rational Theologians, 
the Philosophers among whom is Locke, and the 




We have described Locke, Deism, and certain other 
men and movements of this age as liberal or progressive, 
that is, as rationalistic and critical. This is descriptive 
of their intellectual attitude toward the problems they 
were considering. They were not prone to appeal to 
authority; they rather protested against authority, or 
scholasticism and tradition, in the name of freedom of 


46 John Locke and English Deism 

thought. They emphasized free investigation. In the 
first chapter we saw that this was the normal result of 
the progressive emancipation of man intellectually, 
scientifically, religiously, politically. This movement 
had its roots far back in the centuries. Man brought to 
light again the treasures of the ancient world, and this 
stimulated independent thought. He discovered nature, 
and himself as a part of it, and also that these ideas did 
not fit the authoritatively transmitted systems. Some 
seeing saw not, but many followed the new vision of 
truth; and their mental horizon grew until it could no 
longer be forced to fit mediaeval forms. And each 
discovery or invention was not merely so much achieved ; 
newly discovered truth became at once a stimulus to 
seek more truth. A new spirit was moving, and moving 
mightily in the dawning of a new age. 

But not only were scientific and philosophical systems 
challenged; all institutions, human and divine, were 
called upon to give an account of themselves. Once 
man had discovered nature, he began to explain things in 
terms of nature. In this he was helped by the new 
learning, which enabled him to know the prominent part 
that the concept of nature had played in the speculations 
of Greek and Roman thinkers. Before this, explanation 
had been almost entirely in terms of the supernatural; 
but now, in the new age, the concept of nature is used 
as an ultimate for grounding institutions. Grotius 
bases the authority of law, not on theological sanctions, 
but on human nature. Society is founded on principles 
that are in man ex principiis homini internist And 
Hobbes would account for the state by making it a 

1 Hoffding, Brief History of Modern Philosophy, p. n. 

The Two Focal Concepts 47 

convenient device for escaping conditions that were 
intolerable. Yet these conditions, which made neces 
sary a society ordered under laws, sprang from the 
fundamental principles of human nature. In other 
words, the state was negatively grounded in nature. 

Rationalism was another motive in the critical 
method which" was influential in determining its results. 
This, however, was not foreign to the spirit of scholas 
ticism when it was at its height. In fact the great 
systems of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas had 
in them the germs of that which later effected their 
overthrow. Albert recognized the natural law of reason 
as having authority in matters of religion. However 
there are questions for which philosophy has no final 
answer "and must remain standing before the antinomy 
of different possibilities." Here revelation decides. 
"Revelation is above reason, but not contrary to 
reason." 1 The position taken by Thomas Aquinas is 
essentially the same that knowledge, which man by his 
unaided power can acquire, that is, philosophical knowl 
edge, is but a lower stage in the realm of nature, which 
is completed by revelation in the realm of grace. And 
though the Scotists increased the dividing gulf between 
reason and revelation, when the new age came we find 
the leaders of the progressive tendency more and more 
appealing to reason, and in the field of religion they give 
it an authority along with revelation, and the most 
radical finally place it above revelation. At first "they 
conceive the relation between nature and revealed 
religion quite in accordance with the example of Albert 
and Thomas; revelation is above reason but in harmony 

1 WindleJ&and, A History of Philosophy, p. 321. 

48 John Locke and English Deism 

with reason; it is the necessary supplement to natural 
knowledge." 1 

Accordingly it was to be expected that, once the 

rationalistic critical movement had begun in England, 

religion would not long remain unchallenged. It was 

also to be expected that when it was challenged it would 

be in the name of nature and reason. If religion is true 

I we should be able to know its truths by a rational 

process, and we should find that it has its foundations in 

r M the very nature of things. In the period that we are 

^studying we find men using these two concepts in the 

study of religious problems. They are the elements 

which constitute the rationalistic-critical method. 2 

Nature and reason will be treated separately in this 
study. However, in doing so we shall at times do 
violence to certain systems. For though they are 
generally distinguishable factors or motives in the 
speculation of this period, they are by some writers 
linked together in a way that is most puzzling. Even 
that widely used inherited expression " natural light" is 
not at all clear when we come to analyze it. It is made 
to stand for that natural mental equipment of man by 
which he comes into the possession of knowledge ; hence 
it includes reason. Thus reason would appear as a part 
of nature; and as a matter of fact it is often treated as 
such. And again it seems to include not only the innate 

1 Windleband, A History of Philosophy, p. 487. 

2 This brief account of the source of the two motives, that we are 
here considering as applied in matters of religion, is in no sense an 
exhaustive discussion of their genesis; that lies beyond the purpose 
of this study. We are undertaking a study of certain problems in which 
they are involved and by way of introduction have indicated their 
probable origin, which is sufficient for the present purposes. 

The Two Focal Concepts 49 

capacities of man, but also that truth, more especially 
religious and moral truth, which he can know from the 
world about him. We shall find that there is no con 
sistent usage of the term reason or natural light. Its 
meaning varies often in the same writer. It is probable 
that some used it without any clear notion as to just 
what they meant by it. 

There are also different senses of the concept nature.] 
It sometimes is just the sensible world, the mechanically 
ordered realm about us. As such it stands in contrast 
with the spiritual world including God and man, or with 
the supernatural. Again it is made to include both of 
these. Then it is the whole of reality, the sum total 
of all being; and in this sense nothing is supernatural. 
Sometimes it seems to be an exaggerated idea of the 
immanence of God in His world. Then nature and God 
become almost identical; what nature does is the act of 
Deity. And often it means the native capacities in man, 
his natural endowment by which he is able to know 
truth, especially principles of action, God and his duty 
toward Him. And there are those who consider nature 
an eternal, unchangeable order, apparently independent 
of God, to which God and men in willing and acting 
must conform. We shall find some men consistently 
holding to one or another of these views, while others 
seem to use the term in several different senses. 

The limitation of such a study as this prevents an 
exhaustive presentation of the part that this concept of 
nature plays in all of the important systems that were 
produced by the liberal thinkers of this period; the 
investigation will therefore be limited to those that were 
typical or influential. 

50 John Locke and English Deism 


Richard Hooker ^ ^E^desi^ica] Polity was much 
quoted by~aTTparties in this period, including the Deists. 
Locke refers to him as the "judicious Hooker" in his 
Essay and speaks of him as an authority in his Two 
Treatises of Government. 

He is seeking to derive order, more especially ecclesi 
astical order, not only from revelation, but also from 
nature. All government is based on this, 1 whatever 
form the government may take. 2 But nature is not 
conceived as something entirely separate from God; it 
"is nothing else but His instrument." 3 Nature as well 
as revelation teaches us that order must take the place 
of contention. "But of this we are right sure, that 
nature, Scripture, and experience itself, have all taught 
the world to seek for the ending of contentions." This 
results in establishing order. 4 Natural law is estab 
lished by God; it is from God, by God s command. 5 
Thus according to Hooker God is the author of nature, 
her laws are of His making, her voice is His instrument; 
hence he can well say: "obedience of creatures unto the 
law of nature is the stay of the whole world." 6 Things 
revealed in Scripture or in nature have the same divine 
authority. 7 For nature is of God, her order is from Him, 

1 Essay, IV, xvii, 7; Two Treatises of Government, Book II, chap. ii. 

2 Hooker, Ecclesiastical Polity, Works (Oxford, 1888), I, 146; 
P- 243- 

3 Ibid., pp. 210, 227. s Ibid., pp. 206, 207. 
* Ibid., p. 166. 6 Ibid., p. 208. 

7 John Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy (London, 
1872), I, 51. 

The Two Focal Concepts 51 

her message is His word to us for our guidance, natural 
law is by His authority. 

Even Stillingfleet, who later became Locke s critic,; 
at least in his early period did not hesitate to say "the\ 
law of nature binds indispensably, as it depends not 
upon any arbitrary constitution, but is founded on the 
intrinsical nature of good and evil in things themselves." 
Such a law "if we respect the rise, extent and immuta 
bility of it, may be called deservedly the law of nature; 
but if we look at the emanation, efflux and origin of it, 
it is divine law," for "it depends upon the will of God" 
and therefore the obligation must come from Him. 1 
And yet he tends to regard this law of nature, in its\ 
unchangeableness, as independent of God, for he also 
says: "The law of nature, where it is clearly intelligible, 
is paramount and cannot be superseded by any positive 
human or divine enactments." 2 God "cannot change 
the nature of moral obedience. He cannot make good 
evil or evil good." 3 It seems that we have here two 
different motives: the first is the voice of Hooker, the 
second is like the view of the Cambridge Platonists. 

In Tillotson, whom, according to Collins, "all 
English freethinkers own as their head," 4 we find a like 

That which is deduced from the "perceptive law of nature is 
of divine right." Quoted by Tulloch from Stillingfleet s Irenicum, 
pp. 427, 428. 

2 Tulloch, op. cit., I, 430. 

3 In establishing and shaping church polity, Stillingfleet appeals 
not only to Scripture and tradition but also to that which nature 
dictates. He thus deduces the fundamental principles for organizing 
the church (Tulloch, I, 437-38). The "light and the law of nature 
should guarantee the right of appeal" (ibid., p. 441). 

* A. Collins, A Discourse on Freethinking (London, 1713), p. 171. 

52 John Locke and English Deism 

use of nature as an ultimate term for giving account of 
religion. He considered natural knowledge of God the 
foundation for the ideas of good and evil and for all 
revealed religion, 1 the surest ground of religion. 2 In 
fact, "Christianity hath hardly imposed any other laws 
upon us but what are enacted in our natures, or are 
agreeable to the prime and fundamental laws of it." 3 

We may think that something of this kind was to be 
expected from Tillotson, whose liberalism was recog 
nized, though his orthodoxy was not seriously challenged; 
but surely such a positive defender of Christianity 
against Deism as Sherlock will sound a more positive 
note. In his book, The Trial of the Witnesses, which 
appeared in 1729, and in a few years ran through fourteen 
editions, we have "the very centre of the orthodox 
position." 4 He says in a sermon that the law established 
proper social relations which, often disregarded, give 
occasion for repentance. Hence "repentance had refer 
ence to the law of nature against which men had 
offended." 5 He refers to the "law of reason and nature," 
which had been darkened; yet "the general principles of 
religion" were revealed in human nature. 6 Tindal 
quotes Sherlock on the title-page of Christianity as Old 
as Creation as follows: "The religion of the Gospel is the 
true original religion of reason and nature." Thus 

1 John Tillotson, Works (London, 1720), I, 405, 406. 

2 Ibid ., I, 436, 579. 

3 Ibid, (gth ed., 1743), I, 128-74. 

* Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, I, 243. 
s T. Sherlock, Discourses Preached on Several Occasions (Oxford, 
1797), V, 137. 

6 Ibid., V, 136. 

The Two Focal Concepts 53 

nature is a datum from which, by a normal use of our 
faculties, we can know religious truths without revela 
tion. Both Tillotson and Sherlock are less clear than 
Hooker as to what they mean by nature, but they go 
beyond him in magnifying its importance in problems 
of religion. 


Turning from the theologians to the philosophers, 
including the Christian philosophers of Cambridge (we 
shall consider Herbert with the Deists), we find that 
Bacon s reforms emphasize nature, and that he recog 
nized natural theology, although he assigned it a very 
modest role. Hobbes in his world of matter and motion 
reasons "back from the world to God," although God is 
really incomprehensible to man; yet "if we went back 
far enough we should necessarily reach an eternal cause 
which did not in its turn have a cause." 1 And organized 
society is devised as an escape from an intolerable state 
of nature; that is, the state is naturally though negatively 
grounded. Moral duties "have their elementary basis 
in human nature, but they derive all their social or 
organic effect from the supreme political power"; and 
religion, though it has its truths guaranteed by the 
authority of the sovereign, "has a natural foundation in 
human fear." 2 In both Bacon and Hobbes philosophy 
and theology are sharply separated from each other, the 
natural stands in a clear contrast with the supernatural. 
Their line of thought "takes as its foundation the data 
of external or internal nature, and seeks starting from 

1 Hoffding, History of Modern Philosophy, I, 273. 
* Tulloch, op. tit., II, 27, 28. 

V - 

54 John Locke and English Deism 

these to arrive, by means of induction or deduction, at 
further results." 

Among the philosophers "there is another tend 
ency connected historically with Neo-Platonism, which 
believes there is a foundation for the highest ideas, 
more especially ethical ideas, which is exalted above all 
experience." 1 For the Cambridge Platonists, who were 
among the chief opponents of Hobbes, there are eternal 
truths objectively real and independent of the knowing 
human subject. There are ultimate fixed standards of 
morals, 2 and religion must conform to similar norms. 
If it does not refine, temper, and govern practice, it 
" falls short of the very principles of nature." 3 For 
Culverwell, who if not of this school is near to it, nature 
is " the origin of existence, it is the very genius of entity"; 
it "speaks the action of existence," and it is the principle 
working in spirituals as well as "the source of motion 
and rest in corporeals." 4 And the law of nature is from 
the eternal law; as Aquinas said, "The law of nature is 
nothing but the copying out of the eternal law, and the 

1 Hoffding, History of Modern Philosophy, I, 287, 288. 

2 "It is impossible anything should be by will only, that is, without 
a nature or entity, or that the nature and essence of anything should be 
arbitrary." And concerning the moral law: Suppose such a law to be 
established, it must be either right to obey it, and wrong to disobey it, or 
indifferent whether we obey it or disobey it. But a law which it is 
indifferent whether we obey or not cannot, it is evident, be the source of 
moral distinctions; and on the contrary supposition, if it is right to obey 
the law, and wrong to disobey it, these distinctions must have had an 
existence antecedent to the law (R. Cudworth, Immutable Morality 
[London, 1731], Book I, chap. i). And in like spirit, "Moral laws are 
laws of themselves, without sanction by will" (Whichcote as quoted by 
Tulloch, op. cit., II, 106). 

JTulloch, op. tit., II, 106. 

4 N. Culverwell, The Light of Nature (London, 1857), pp. 38, 39. 

The Two Focal Concepts 55 

imprinting of it upon the breast of a rational being." 
But in Culverwell a sort of Christian pantheistic view of 
nature prevails, which makes it dependent on or even 
identical with God, rather than the Platonic motive 
which has just been mentioned. This eternal law is not 
distinguishable from God. 1 

Taking the school as a whole, they sought to account 
for the highest ideas by assuming eternal and immutable 
standards or archetypes, which with some men seem to 
constitute a realm of reals separate from God; while in; 
others the standards and the eternal law of nature seem 
to be an expression of God Himself. It was character 
istic of the school to hold that our knowledge of the law 
of nature was an immediate certainty innate in the mind 
of man. 2 

When we come to Locke the concept of nature, 
although very important in some connections, seems to 
play a less conspicuous part. He uses it in several 
senses and is not always clear. In the Essay he refers 
to the law of nature frequently, and sometimes in 
important connections. Because he denies innate laws 
he does not wish to be understood as denying that there 
is a law of nature, which we can know by proper use of 
our senses and faculties, that is, by the light of nature \ 
without revelation. 3 This law of nature seems, at least 

1 Ibid., pp. 50, 79, 98. 

3 The devout scientist Boyle saw in nature a revelation of God 
sufficiently clear to enable man to know Him and to grasp the funda 
mental principles of natural religion, which is "the foundation upon 
which revealed religion ought to be superstructed." From nature we 
get as it were the stock upon which Christianity must be engrafted 
(R. Bqyle s Works [London, 1744], V, 46, 685). 

3 Jbhn Locke, Works, I, 44; also Essay,, i, iii, 13. 

56 John Locke and English Deism 

I in one form, to concern our duty toward God, as that 
can be inferred by the unaided capacities of man. 1 This 
appears to be the same as "divine law," for he says that 
by this he means "that law which God has set to the 
actions of men, whether promulgated to them by the 
light of nature, or the voice of revelation." 2 There is an 
order that arises from the nature of things, which we can 
know by a proper application of our faculties. We may 
infer that this order is from God, for He is the Creator 
and Author of all things. 3 Moral law is a part of the law 
of nature, and has God as its author. 4 

In discussing civil government, especially in the 
second book, he frequently refers to the "state of 
nature/ apparently meaning thereby the condition of 
the race when socially unorganized. But man is not 
lawless here. "The state of nature has a law of nature 
to govern it, which obliges everyone ; and reason, which 
is that law, teaches all mankind, who will but consult it, 
that being all equal and independent, no one ought to 
harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions." 
There is such a thing as "equality of men by nature"; 

1 Boyle s Works, I, 37, tf^Essay, I, iii, (>, "I grant the existence 
of God is so many ways manifest, and the obedience we owe Him so 
congruous to the light of reason, that a great part of mankind give 
testimony to the law of nature." The true ground of morality "can 
only be the will and law of a God, who sees men in the dark, has in His 
hands rewards and punishments," etc. 

2 Essay, II, xxviii, 8, n; Government, II, ii, 6. 

3 He seems to have the same thought in mind when he says, "Reason 
is natural revelation whereby the eternal Father of light and fountain 

\of all knowledge, communicates to mankind that portion of the truth 
which he has laid within the reach of their natural faculties" (Essay, 
IV, xix, 4). 

*Ibid., I, iii, 12. 

The Two Focal Concepts 57 

that is, by virtue of what man really is. 1 Here the state 
of nature is set over against organized society, and the 
law of nature over against positive law. 

Yet it must be admitted that Locke, when compared \ 
with others, makes but little use of the concept of nature 
in constructing his system; when he does so it is prin 
cipally in the spirit of Hooker. Nature is a divine 
order which we can know; and her laws are God s laws 
which He there reveals to us. He certainly differs widely 
from the Cambridge Platonists. 


When we come to the Deists we find great variety 
of opinion. But though they differ as to what nature is, 
all agree in assigning it an important place in the study 
of all religious problems. It is an ultimate norm for 
testing religious truth. 

In the system of Herbert of Cherbury, who is 
generally recognized as the founder of Deism, there are 
four groups of our numerous human faculties: natural 
instinct, sensus internus, sensus externus, and discursus. 
Of these, natural instinct is the most certain. From it 
we have the "common notions" which are innate in all 
men. Among these "common notions" we find his 
five fundamental principles of all religion. "For 
Herbert, natural means much the same as divine. For 
him, as for his friend Grotius, the law of nature is the law 
of God and of supreme authority." We find him writing 
in one place deum sive naturam. 2 

1 Government, II, ii, 5. 

3 W. R. Sorley, Mind (1894), p. 501. 

58 John Locke and English Deism 

And coming to the less important deistical writers 
just before Tqland and Collins, we find Blount speaking 
of his five articles, which follow closely those of Herbert, 
as "grounded upon the law of nature," which is "God s 
universal Magna Charta, enacted by the all-wise and 
Supreme Being from the beginning of the world." 1 He 
also asserts that there is a sanction arising "from the 
nature of things" before any human law. This is much 
in the spirit of Hooker. 2 Gildon before his conversion 
from Deism wrote of "nature, or that sacred and supreme 
cause of all things, which we term God." 3 Thomas 
Burnet used almost the same words. 4 God s immanence 
j is so magnified that it seems to suggest a sort of 
j pantheism. 

Though Toland speaks frequenty of "natural law," 
"natural reason," and " natural _religion," it is difficult 
to say just what he means by "natural." It is clear that 
in many instances he has in mind that which is neither 
God-given nor man-made, but it is impossible to define 
the content of the term more definitely. 5 

For Collins the term scarcely exists. He speaks 
of "natural light," but this is in a paragraph from 
Tillotson. 6 

Tindal, who with Wollaston represents the best 
scholarship and thought among the Deists, makes very 

1 C. Blount, Religio Laid (London, 1683), p. 94. 

2 Miscellaneous Works (London, 1695), p. 93. 

3 Preface to Oracles of Reason (London, 1693). 

4 Archiologiae Philosophicae (London, 1729), p. xxii. 

s Christianity Not Mysterious, 46; Nazaremis (London, 1718), p. 67; 
Letters to Serena (London, 1 704) , p. 1 1 7 ; A Collection of Several Pieces, 
etc. (London, 1726), II, 139. 

6 A Discourse on Freethinking, p. 173. 

The Two Focal Concepts 59 

frequent appeals to nature. It is noteworthy that the 
concept has greater prominence in the systems of these ~ 
two men than in that of any other Deist. Tindal 
mentions frequently the "law of nature" whicfPljT" 
known to all creatures. It is perfect, eternal, unchange 
able, and the gospel was not intended to change it; 1 
all religions acknowledge it and it must be obeyed. 2 
He even asserts that God s laws are built on the eternal 
reason of things, and that there is an unalterable reason 
of things according to which God must act when He 
acts. 3 We know by reason that this is true. You 
cannot prove anything to be God s will except that 
which His nature and the nature of things point out to 
be His will. 4 We have the " light of nature" which is 
none other than the "voice of God Himself." 5 jrhe____ "^ 
"book of nature" is in characters "legible by the whole 
world "";" "^~wh"oruiis~may read. The title of his book is 
Christiamty^as-Old-as Creation, or The Gospel, a Republi- 
cation of the Religion of Nature. Thus nature appears 
as that which stands out in contrast with revelation. It 
"is the instrument oitKe~ primitiveTeveTation or it is the 
primitive revelation itself. Though he makes frequent 
use of the concept, it is not further defined. 

Wollaston emphasizes "the great law of nature, or 
rather as we shall afterwards find reason to call it, of the 
author of nature." It is that no intelligent being should 
contradict truth or that he should treat everything as 
being what it is. 6 The infinite original cause is the 

1 Christianity as Old as Creation, p. 8. 

2 Ibid., pp. H-I2. 4 Ibid., pp. 246, 247. 
*Ibid., p. 124. slbid., p. 273. 

6 W. Wollaston, Religion of Nature Delineated (London, 1759), p. 41. 

60 John Locke and English Deism 

author of nature and what is done in it. 1 For Wollaston 
nature is God s handiwork, wherein His acts appear, 
from which His law, which is the law of nature, can be 

In the writings of Woolston nature seems to play no 

Morgan placed the ultimate foundation of religion 
in nature, not in revelation. 2 From nature we can know 
"the eternal immutable rules and principles of moral 
truth," which are always the same and known to all 
. pien, and which constitute natural religion. 3 He goes 
so far toward the Cambridge school as to teach that God 
does not create good and evil, that there is a rule of 
action prior to God s willing. Yet nature is not clearly 
defined; we cannot be sure what he understood by it. 
It may be understood either in the sense of Hooker or in 
the sense of the Cambridge Platonists, but its importance 
in his system is evident. 

Bolingbroke finds our duties set forth so plainly 
in "the constitution of our nature" that we cannot fail 
to know them. 4 More circumspect than some of his 
fellow-Deists, he holds that Christianity is founded on 
the universal law of nature, and that God teaches the 
fundamental principle of this law; although it is not just 
a republication of it. 5 This universal law of nature is the 

1 W. Wollaston, Religion of Nature Delineated (London, 1759), 
pp. 129, 287. 

* Thomas Morgan, The Moral Philosopher (London, 1740), III, 126; 
Physico-Theology (London, 1741), pp. 143 ff.; Tracts (London 1726), 
Preface, p. xvii. 

3 The Moral Philosopher, I, 94. 

<H. Bolingbroke, Works (London, 1809), VI, 281. 

5 Ibid., p. 311. 

The Two Focal Concepts 61 

foundation of everything. 1 He gives us no further deter 
mination of nature or natural law. Is it God s creature, 
God s instrument for grounding things ? Whether it has 
the same meaning as in Hooker s system or is something 
independent of God as the Platonists taught he does not 
tell us. 

Chubb wrote An Enquiry into the Ground and Founda 
tion of Morality, in which he undertook to show "that 
religion is founded in nature," and that this pure religion 
of nature "is grounded upon the unalterable nature and 
the eternal reason of things." 2 He starts out from the 
assumption that "there is a natural and essential 
difference in things," which is the "ground and founda 
tion of moral truth;" 3 and divine rectitude is God s 
acting in harmony with such difference. His acts are 
always in harmony with the essential difference in things. 4 
This is clearly the doctrine of the philosophers of Cam 
bridge. Though he is the only Deist who announces it 
in unambiguous terms, it may be in the background of 
the teaching of Morgan and Bolingbroke. 


In this study of the place of the concept of nature in 
English thought of the period that we are considering 
we have found some confusion. Few thinkers hold 
consistently to one sense of the term. However we are 

1 Ibid., pp. 345 ff. In this passage he vigorously rejects the teach 
ing of Hobbes, which bases morality on civil enactment. 

a Thomas Chubb, An Enquiry into the Ground and Foundation of 
Morality (London, 1745), p. 40. 

3 Chubb, An Inquiry Concerning Redemption (London, 1743), p. 35. 

*Ibid., p. 37. 

62 John Locke and English Deism 

justified in drawing several conclusions that are relevant 
to our problem. In some form or other the concept of 
nature is present in the speculations of almost every 
liberal thinker that we have considered. The age was 
prone to believe that institutions and principles were 
adequately grounded only when it was proved that they 
were natural. Nature is the foundation of economies 
and institutions ; it determines their character and gives 
them authority. 

But when it comes to defining just what was meant 
by nature, there are radical differences. The views that 
were held seem to fall into two groups. On the one 
hand, we find God and nature more or less closely linked; 
it is His creation, its laws are ordained by Him, it reveals 
His will, and sometimes it seems to be identical with Him. 
And on the other hand, it is conceived as eternal, immu 
table, and at least in some sense independent of God, an 
order distinct from God to which His willing must 
conform; and sometimes the writings of one man seem 
to show both motives. But whatever the conception 
of nature, in practically every system "natural law," 
"natural light," "the book of nature," "the religion of 
nature," stand out in contrast on the one hand with 
man-made institutions, on the other with supernatural 
revelation. It is placed over against that which is 
positive, whether human or divine. In the considera 
tion of the religious problem, which chiefly concerns us 
here, nature is an order or a datum that is contrasted 
with God s dealing with man in that special revelation 
which we find in the Bible. 

Generally speaking Locke and the Deists under 
stand the term in the same way. With the exception of 

The Two Focal Concepts 63 

Chubb, and perhaps also of Morgan and Bolingbroke, 
they stand in the line that comes down from Hooker. 
The Cambridge way of thinking does not seem to have 
influenced the Deists until we reach the period of their 

We have here a similarity between Locke and Deism 
when it was at its height. Both use the same concept 
and they seem to understand it in the same way. But 
the likeness is just as marked between the Deists and 
certain prominent theologians and philosophers, many 
of whom lived before Locke. It was the point of view 
or method that prevailed at that time. Just as scholars 
today are likely to organize the data of a given science 
according to the genetic method because it is so widely 
accepted, so the leaders of English thought two or three 
hundred years ago sought to ground all institutions and 
principles in nature. Locke and the Deists stand in the 
main line of the progressive movement. When we study 
critically their resemblance in the use of the concept of 
nature, we cannot infer any other closer relation from it. 
Later, in considering natural religion, we shall see how 
Locke and the Deists are related in the importance that 
they assigned to the concept of nature in this relation. 


The general movement of the age was toward free 
inquiry. Inherited systems and institutions were sub 
jected to criticism; it was no longer enough that a con 
viction had behind it hoary tradition. If anything was 
to survive, it could do so only under the condition that 
good reasons were given why intelligent men should hold 
it. There is only one way for a man to know truth, and 

64 John Locke and English Deism 

that is by a proper use of his reason; whatever is 
accepted must be rationally grounded. Such was the 
spirit of the liberal movement in England at this time. 


Beginning with "the judicious Hooker " we find that 
he appeals to reason with a frequency that is surprising. 
Though he argues that it alone is not sufficient to ground 
that which is necessary to salvation, 1 he also holds that 
"there are but two ways whereby the spirit leadeth men 
into all truth .... one, that which we call by a special 
divine excellency, Revelation; the other, Reason." 2 
For the earnestness of conviction does not guarantee 
the truth of opinions but the "soundness of those 
reasons whereupon the same is built." Only thus can 
we know that they are from the Holy Spirit and not 
from an evil spirit that might deceive us. 3 It is by the 

1 Ecclesiastical Polity, Works, I, 231, 232, 234, 281. He expressly 
taught that the law of reason does not contain all duties that bind 
reasonable creatures, but only those duties that men by using their 
natural wit may or should discover, which are common to all. 

3 Ibid., p. 150. 

3 Ibid., p. 151. The conviction that we believe on a basis of ade 
quate reason is developed at some length (pp. 321-30). Even in matters 
of faith we must grant judgment some place. Belief cannot ignore 
evidence, though the authority of human judgment is not as strong as 
the testing of God himself (p. 323). "For men to be tied and led by 
authority, as it were by a kind of capacity of judgment, and though there 
be reason to the contrary not to listen unto it, but to follow like beasts 
the first in the herd, they know not nor care not whither, this were 
brutish. Again, that authority of man should prevail with men, either 
against or above reason, is no part of our belief" (p. 324). "Shall I 
add further, that the force of arguments drawn from the authority of 
Scripture itself, as Scriptures commonly are alleged, shall (being sifted) 
be found to depend upon the strength of this so much despised and 
debased authority of man ? Surely it doth and that oftener than we are 
aware of" (pp. 299, 328). 

The Two Focal Concepts 65 

light of reason that we know good from evil; reason 
directs the will by recognizing the good. 1 This light of 
reason is from God. The meaning of Romans 2 : 14 is 
"that by force of the light of reason wherewith God 
illuminateth everyone which cometh into the world," 
etc. 2 In fact the law of reason is a part of God s 
eternal law; that part which men may find by reason and 
to which they may know themselves to be bound. 3 
There are lengthy passages in which he refers on almost 
every page to the "light of reason," "the law of reason," 
and "right reason." 

Thus according to Hooker the role of reason is of 
fundamental importance. It can know a part of God s 
law for us and, though it cannot reveal to us all that is 
necessary for salvation, only on the basis of sound 
reason can we know when a belief is wrought by the 
Holy Spirit. He is seeking to give an intelligent reason, 
a reason other than tradition for the faith that is in him. 
The conviction that lies in the background of his thinking 
is that we can know the truth of our beliefs only by "the 
soundness of those reasons whereupon the same is 

1 Ibid., pp. 222, 223, 225 ff. "And the law of reason or human 
nature is that which men by discourse of natural reason have rightly 
found out themselves to be all forever bound unto in their actions." 
Such laws are in harmony with nature and can be investigated by reason 
without the aid of revelation; and knowledge of such laws is general 
the world has ever been acquainted with them. " Law rational, therefore, 
which men commonly used to call the law of nature, meaning thereby 
the law which human nature knoweth itself in reason universally bound 
unto, which also for that cause may be termed most fitly the law of 
reason; this law, I say, comprehendeth all those things which men by the 
light of their natural understanding evidently know, or at leastwise may 
know" (pp. 233-34). 

3 Ibid., p. 227. 3 Ibid., p. 205. 

66 John Locke and English Deism 

built." This involves a principle that is of far-reaching 
consequence: religious belief must be rationally 
grounded. 1 

Chillingworth after his reconversion to Protes 
tantism demands a rational conviction at the root of 
his religion." He is certain "that God has given us 
reason to discern between truth and falsehood," and he 
who does not use his reason does not know why he 
jbelieves the truth. Though he asserts his belief in 
revelation most vigorously he requires that faith 
should be rationally certified. 2 Jeremy Taylor held 
practically the same view. Man should follow his own 
reason, guided only by revelation, not by human author 
ity. Revelation is not challenged in the name of reason 
but reason provides grounds for accepting beliefs. 3 

Stillingfleet has very little to say about reason in 
matters of religion but his silence becomes eloquent 
when we remember that his criticism of Locke was 
occasioned by Toland s use of Locke s "new way of 
ideas " and that in this controversy Stillingfleet sought 
to identify Locke with the Unitarians. He objects to 
Locke s doctrine of ideas but his appeal to reason is 

"The work remains an enduring monument of all the highest 
principles of Christian rationalism of that spirit and tendency of 
thought which everywhere ascends from tradition or dogmas to 
principles, and which tests all questions, not with reference to external 
rules or authorities, but to the indestructible and enlightened instincts 
of the Christian consciousness" (Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian 
Philosophy, I, 53). This same principle perhaps in a somewhat more 
rationalistic form was asserted by Lord Falkland (ibid., pp. 161-64). 
And John Hales of Eaton "is the representative the next after Hooker 
of that catholicity yet rationality of Christian sentiment which has 
been the peculiar glory of the Church of England" (ibid., p. 260). 

1 Ibid., pp. 331, 332. 3 Ibid., p. 404. 

The Two Focal Concepts 67 

scarcely touched upon; he did not find it objectionable. 
It is significant that he put in a headline "Vindication 
of the Doctrine of the Trinity .... from Scripture, 
Antiquity and Reason." 

The orthodox Sherlock did not hesitate to say that 
if "the Gospel represents to us the law of nature, it 
need only to appeal to the reason of mankind for its 
authority," 1 and that "the Gospel is the true original 
religion of reason and nature." 2 Warburton goes so far 
as to teach that "the image of God in which man was at 
first created lay in the faculty of reason only." 3 

These men were among the most prominent church 
men of their times. They were theologians who exerted 
a great influence in shaping the theology of the church, 
and, so far as the writer has observed, with the exception 
of Tillotson, their orthodoxy was never questioned. 
Therefore their rationalistic way of looking at things is 
all the more significant. Religious conviction that 
rests merely on authority has an uncertain foundation. !< 
When reasonable beings such as men believe anything, 
it should be because of sound reasons. Revelation is 
not challenged, but the acceptance of revelation must 
have a rational basis. 


The teaching of Hobbes concerning the place of 
reason in matters of revelation are found in the thirty- 
second chapter of the Leviathan. Though he magnifies 
the authority of the Bible in a manner inconsistent with 

1 Discourses Preached on Several Occasions, V, 143. 

3 Ibid., pp. 134, 142. 

3 Quoted by Pattison, Essays and Reviews (London, 1861), p. 269. 

68 John Locke and English Deism 

his theories, he recognizes reason as an instrument given 
by God for knowing true religion, and thus it is in a 
sense God s word. However, the Bible may well contain 
some things that are above reason, although it cannot 
give us anything that is contrary to reason. 

The Cambridge Platonists represent something new 
/jn Protestantism. As Tulloch expresses it, it was the 
first effort among Protestants "to wed Christianity and 
philosophy" and "to form the union on the indestruc- 
, ; tible basis of reason and the essential elements of our 
1 |iigher humanity." They were devoutly Christian, but 
thoroughly rationalistic. Writing in the spirit of the 
school and in its defense, an author who hides himself 
behind the initials of his name is quoted by Tulloch as 
follows: It is absurd to accuse them "of harkening too 
much to their own reason. For reason is that faculty 
whereby a man must judge of everything; nor can a man 
believe anything unless he have some reason for it," 
whether it be "the light of nature," "the candle of the 
Lord " in the soul of every man, or revelation. The most 
ancient should prove to be the most rational and the 
most rational the most ancient. "Nothing is true in 
divinity which is false in philosophy or on the contrary." 1 
Turning to these Christian philosophers themselves, 
Whichcote formulates the statement of the relation that 
obtains between reason and religion which is accepted 
by the other members of the school. Reason is not to be 
taken lightly, for it is from God. Hence there is no 
inconsistency in calling upon men to use it, for "the 
spirit in man is the candle of the Lord, lighted by God 
and lighting man to God." 2 He has given two lights to 
1 Tulloch, op. cit., II, 41, 42. * Ibid., pp. 99, no. 

The Two Focal Concepts 69 

guide us on our way, the light of reason which is ours by 
creation, and the light of scripture which is revealed by 
Him, 1 to which reason is not opposed. "There can be 
no faith without reason, nor yet any higher reason with 
out faith." 2 And John Smith in like spirit preaches that 
religion does not extinguish reason, but rather fosters it. 
They who "live most in the exercise of religion shall find 
the reason most enlarged." 3 Tulloch sums up his 
position by saying, "that religion cannot be separated 
from reason, nor morals from piety, was of the nature of 
an axiomatic truth to him." 4 Cudworth held the same 
views as to the harmony between philosophy and 
religion, between reason and faith. 5 Man, God s 
creature, bears his image, "is endowed with the divine 
reason," the intuitions of which are eternal. 6 Moore 
also was a preacher of the rights of reason. To take 
reason away from the priest, under whatsoever pretext, 
is "to disrobe the priest" and "to rob Christianity of 
that special prerogative it has above all other religions 
in the world namely that it dares appeal unto reason. 
.... For take away reason and all religions are alike 
true; as the light being removed all things are of one 
color." 7 In CulverwelPs Discourse on the Light of Nature 
we probably have the most eloquent discussion of the 
relation of reason and faith that this school of pietistic 
rationalists produced. His avowed purpose is "to 
give unto reason the things that are reason s, and unto 
faith the things that are faith s"; to give faith her "full 

1 Ibid., pp. 113, 114. sfbid., pp. 233, 234. 

1 Ibid., p. 116. 6 Ibid., p. 300. 

J Ibid., pp. 184, 185. Ibid., pp. 353, 354- 

Ibid., p. 188. 

70 John Locke and English Deism 

scope and latitude, and to give reason also her just 
bounds and limits"; and he significantly adds "this is 
the first-born, but the other has the blessing." 1 Reason 
is a royal gift of the Creator; 2 it discovers the moral light 
founded in natural light that is, in the light of reason, and 
that "there is nothing in the mysteries of the Gospel 
contrary to the light of reason." 3 By reason man can 
know the restraining laws that God has set, but it does 
not make the law. 4 It has its authority from heaven. 
"To obey right reason is to be persuaded by God him 
self." 5 But as the soul is the shadow of the Deity, "so 
reason also is a weak and faint resemblance of God 
himself," planted in us by God. 6 Even the movings 
and revelation of the Holy Ghost "are a rational light, 
as rational as a demonstration." 7 Before there can be 
faith in any soul "there must be a knowledge of the 
proposition to be believed." Before you understand 
the terms of a proposition "you can no more believe it 
than if it came to you in an unknown tongue." 8 How 
ever there are certain matters of faith which shall forever 
be above reason, though not contrary to it. 9 

The school taught that faith rests on rational 
grounds, that we believe on the basis of adequate reasons. 
Our ability to apprehend truth rationally is a gift of God, 

1 Culverwell, Discourse on the Light of Nature, p. 17. 
3 Ibid., p. 18. 

3 Ibid., p. 25. 6 Ibid., p. 153. 

4 Ibid., pp. 79, 90, 98. 1 1bid., pp. 161-62. 
s Ibid., pp. 99-101. 8 Ibid., p. 216. 

9 Ibid., pp. 229-32. Tulloch in English Puritanism and Its Leaders, 
speaking of Milton, said that a " liberal rationalising spirit " distinguished 
certain parts of Christian Doctrine (p. 271). He also makes a like 
observation concerning Baxter (p. 381). 

The Two Focal Concepts 71 

by which we know His will and what is worthy of belief. 
By it we distinguish the true from the false. The office 
and importance of reason is magnified, it is of God, it is 
divine ; and yet they are careful to assert that it has its 
limits. There are truths that faith apprehends which 
are above reason, though not contrary to it. 

When we come to Locke we find the same rationalistic 
way of viewing things^lhat we find among the more 
liberal theologians and the Cambridge Platonists. 
Probably he is somewhat less enthusiastic than Cudworth 
and Culverwell, but he is as outspoken as any of his 
predecessors; he gives to the problem concerning the 
relation of reason and faith the most systematic expres 
sion that it has thus far received. It was a topic to 
w r hich he devoted much thought. He returns to it again 
and again, often when least expected. Though a genetic 
study of the development of his opinions from year to 
year might show that during the last decade of his life 
he emphasized more than formerly the importance of a 
positive revelation, there is no evidence that he changed 
his views in any essential respect. 

We find his full discxission--of, the problem in the 
seventeenth, eighteentfT, and nineteenth chaplefT Df fhe 
f ourth-bookofjhe Essay. The eighteenth ciiapterjacarc 
the title "Of FaTthfand Reason and Their Distinct 
Province." We shall let Locke speak for himself. 

He defines reason as "natural revelation, whereby 
the eternal Father of light and fountain of all knowledge, 
communicates to mankind that portion of truth which he 
has laid within reach of their natural faculties; revela 
tion is natural reason enlarged by a new set of dis 
coveries, communicated by God immediately, which 

72 John Locke and English Deism 

reason vouches the truth of, by the testimony and proofs 
it gives, that they come from God. So that he that 
takes away reason to make way for revelation, puts out 
the light of both, and does much what the same, as if he 
would persuade a man to put out his eyes, the better to 
receive the remote light of an invisible star by a 
telescope." 1 

Speaking of " enthusiasm" he says that if God 
expects us to assent to the truth of any proposition, "He 
either evidences that truth by the usual methods of 
natural reason, or else makes it known to be a truth which 
He would have us assent to by His authority; and con 
vinces us that it is from Him, by some marks which 
. reason cannot be mistaken in. Reason must be our last 
^ judge and guide in everything. I do not mean that we 
must consult reason and examine whether a proposition 
revealed from God can be made out by our natural 
principles, and if it cannot, that then we may reject it; 
but consult it we must, and by it examine, whether it be 
a revelation from God or no." And if reason finds "it to 
be revealed from God, reason then declares for it .... 
and makes it one of her dictates." Without reason we 
could not know truth from vain conceits. 2 If a man 
believes without reason for believing, he does not seek 
the truth, nor does he obey his Maker who gave him 
those faculties to keep him from error. 3 But unaided 
reason cannot discover everything. There are some 
truths that are above reason, and here revelation should 
have the greater weight. 4 "But no proposition can be 
received for divine revelation, or obtain the assent due 

, ~~~\ 

, IV, xix, 4. J Ibid., IV, xvh, 24. 

., IV, xix, 14. Ibid., IV, xviii, 6, 7, 8. 

The Two Focal Concepts 73 

to all such, if it be contradictory to our clear intuitive 
knowledge ..... For faith can never convince us of 
anything that contradicts our knowledge." 1 

Perhaps of all the quotations from Locke concerning 
reason that have been or might be given, the most 
characteristic one is: "Reason must be our last judge 
and guide in everything." God gave it to us to use; by 
it alone we can know truth from error. We believe on 
the basis of sufficient reason. Faith is rationally 
grounded, reason certifies revelation, and the content of 
faith is rational. He repeatedly emphasizes the widely 
accepted doctrine that nothing in revelation can be 
contrary to reason, though it may enable us to know 
some things that are above reason. 2 

Thus far in our study of the use that is made of reason 
in speculation concerning religious problems, we have 
found little difference of opinion among the men that 
we have met. Some go a little farther than others in 
magnifying the office of reason in matters of religion, but 
there is no essential difference. Though Locke is much 
more elaborate in his statement rJ? 

faith and reason, he simply systematizes the teacKihg 
from Hooker .down. When the great bishop asserted 
that earnestness of conviction did not guarantee the 
truth of opinions "but the soundness of those reasons 
whereupon the same is built," he struck the keynote of 
progressive theology in England during the next century. 

1 Ibid., IV, xvifi, 5. "~ 

2 In like spirit Boyle held that God had given man reason by which 
he could know the principles of natural religion, but that this was not 
enough (Works, V, 46). By reason we know that there are things above 
reason (Works, IV, 39 ff.), which are not contradictory to it (Works, V, 
65, 682). It needs the help of revelation (Works, III, 414). 

74 John Locke and English Deism 


When we come to the Deists we move in a different 
atmosphere. Some of them in their teaching differed 
only a little from the more liberal theologians. Yet 
the divergence is significant and can be easily detected. 
iN , Reason becomes something more and revelation some- 
Beginning again with Herbert of Cherbury, we find 
"~-that "natural instinct" gives man the greatest certainty 
and that it accounts for his "common notions," and that 
from these he gets his five articles of "the true Catholic 
Church, that is to say, of the religion of reason," which 
was the primitive, pure religion of man. Whatever is 
contrary to them is contrary to reason and therefore 
false; but that which conforms to reason, though above 
it, may be revealed. 1 

Blount felt obliged to stand by "common reason" 
rather than debase his "understanding in divine mys 
teries." 2 Reason is supreme; it gives us the fundamental 
articles of religion, and all those who live according 
to the rule of reason are Christians. 3 "What proceeds 
from common reason, we know to be true, but what 
proceeds from faith we only believe." 4 The test to 
\\ which all extraordinary biblical accounts are subjected 
is that of reason. 5 Blount writes carelessly, but reason 
means more and positive religion means less than for 
anyone considered thus far. This is the first statement 

1 W. R. Sorley, Mind (1894), p. 501. 

2 Religio Laid, pp. 26-30. 
Ibid., pp. 16, 95. 

4 Blount, Philostratus (London, 1680), Book I, chap, v, illustration 6. 
s Oracles of Reason, p. 33. 

The Two Focal Concepts 75 

that we have found of the doctrine that unaided reason 
can grasp enough religious truth to mark a man as a 

Toland s contribution to the movement as well as his 
general position is summed up in the unabbreviated 
title of his book, Christianity Not Mysterious; or a Treatise 
Showing That There Is Nothing in the Gospel Contrary to 
Reason, nor above It, and That No Christian Doctrine Can 
Be Properly Called a Mystery. Scripture and reason 
agree very well. 1 Christianity was divinely revealed 
from heaven. 2 Yet the proof of the divinity of Scripture 
rests upon reason 3 and there is nothing in it above 
reason; 4 yet that which reason reveals to us is not the 
full gospel. 5 Tpland is almost as enthusiastic as Culver- 
well in magnifying the importance of reason. His denial 
that there can be anything above reason is an important 
change; it marks a stage in the growth of deistic 

Collins is still more radical. "Christ, the first 
begotten of God, is nothing else but reason, of which all 
mankind are partakers, and that whosoever live by 
reason .... are Christians; and that such were 
Socrates and the like." 6 

For Tindal reason is the great mark of dignity of 
man, "since our reason for kind, though not for degree 
is of the same nature with that of God; nay, it is our 

1 Christianity Not Mysterious, Preface, pp. xv, 25, 26. 

2 Ibid., p. xxv. * Ibid., p. 46. 4 Ibid., pp. 97, 120. 
5 .4 Collection of Several Pieces, etc., pp. 138-41. 

6 A Discourse on Freethinking, pp. 123, 124. Sebastian Franck and 
Croonhert had held the same views (Hoffding, History of Modern 
Philosophy, I, 60). 

76 John Locke and English Deism 

reason which makes us the image of God." It is the 
inspiration of the Almighty. 1 By it we distinguish false 
religion from the true. 2 In fact the religion of the Gospel 
is but the religion of reason. 3 Both are in complete 
agreement. 4 By magnifying revelation we weaken the 
force of natural religion and strike at the foundation of 
all religion. 5 For nothing can be accepted by intelligent 
beings which is above the use of reason. 6 Tindal 
conceives reason practically in the sense of Toland. 
However, when he considers the question of revelation 
he applies it much more radically. The religion of 
reason as a norm for all religions is vigorously asserted. 

For Wollaston the religion of nature is but a system of 
theistic ethics, virtue is but the product of reason and 
truth, which every man has. He finds no necessity for 
revelation. To be governed by reason is imposed 
by God on rational beings. 7 

Bolingbroke, almost in the very words of Tindal, 
teaches that we cannot assume that religious truths are 
above reason, 8 which reveals to us the entire content of 
natural religion. 9 Reason was never subdued by 

1 Christianity as Old as Creation, pp. 22-24, J 94- 

2 Ibid., p. 66. 

3 Ibid., p. 79. 

4 Ibid., pp. 191, 179. 
sibid., p. 178. 

6 " If the Scripture was designed to be understood, it must be 
within the reach of human understanding; and consequently it can t 
contain propositions that are either above or below human understand 
ing" (ibid., p. 222). 

The Religion of N attire Delineated, pp. 35, 76 ff., 86, 87, 402. 

8 Bolingbroke, Works, VI, 282 ff. 

Ibid., p. 281. 

The Two Focal Concepts 77 

revelation, "but revelation was subjected to reason." 1 
In fact, he goes so far as to say that he who claims a 
revelation added to reason is mad. 2 

In Morgan there is a strange contradiction. He 
seems to have been influenced by different motives at 
different times. In the volume of collected tracts he! 
speaks the language of Hooker, the Platonists, and Locke, 
and claims that by revelation we get knowledge of things 
which unaided reason could not grasp. In this sense we * 
can believe things above reason. 3 And yet this revela 
tion is elsewhere not highly esteemed. He speaks of the 
"so-called supernatural revelation," which is confusion 
on all sides, so that there is nothing left but to judge of 
it all by reason. 4 For nothing miraculous or super 
stitious can have any authority superior to reason. 5 
Revelation can give us nothing above reason. 6 Reason 
is the ultimate, sure, and certain court to which revelation 
must eventually appeal. 7 Morgan accepts revelation 
as a fact, but denies that it can give us anything above 
reason. 8 

1 Ibid., pp. 288, 290. 

1 Ibid., pp. 170, 171. 5 The Moral Philosopher, III, 134. 

* Tracts, p. 18. 6 Ibid., pp. 84 ff . 

4 Physico-Theology, pp. 144 ff. Physico-Theology, pp. 328 ff. 

8 Thus The Moral Philosopher and Physico-Theology flatly contradict 
the position taken in the volume of Tracts. The latter appeared in 1726 
and bears the marks of immaturity. It is distinctly on a lower level than 
The Moral Philosopher and Physico-Theology which appeared about a 
dozen years later. In it he also stands closer to the orthodox view and 
seeks to emphasize revelation; when he refers to it he speaks with a 
certain reverence. It is probable that this represents an earlier stage 
in his development and that his views changed between 1726 and 1737, 
when the first volume of The Moral Philosopher appeared. We can 
safely take the more radical views of his later period as representative. 

78 John Locke and English Deism 

Chubb has nothing to add to that which the other 
Deists have said. He admits the fact of revelation, 
sometimes with hesitation; 1 generally it is assumed as a 
matter of course. 2 But if men are to come into the right 
relation with Christ, they must submit themselves "to 
the law of reason or the rule of righteousness, which 
Christ requires." 3 For reason is the proper judge of 
all parts of revelation and must reject certain things 
in it as being contrary to it. 4 


Looking back over what these men have said con 
cerning the use of reason, from the great Hooker to the 
candlemaker Chubb, one cannot help being impressed 
by the marked likenesses and also by the radical dif 
ferences that appear. There was an ever-increasing 
conviction that mere authority was an inadequate 
foundation for the faith of rational beings. It is true 
traditionalism yet lingered as a potent factor in the 
more conservative thought of the times. Many leaders 
in the church and in academic circles still lived in the 
atmosphere of an age that was dying : they were wont to 
appeal to that which was rather than to encourage free 
inquiry. But against this conservative tradition-loving 

( t ) 

tendency, there stood the party of progress. We have 
considered a number of the leaders and have studied 

1 A Discourse Concerning Reason (London, 1746), p. u. 

3 The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted (London, 1741), pp. 14, 
IS, iQ- 

3 Ibid., p. 5. 

* A Discourse Concerning Reason, pp. 12, 13, 19. 

The Two Focal Concepts 79 

their way of looking at things. We find that in a 
genuinely rationalistic spirit they protest against the 
reactionary narrowness of the conservative party and 
attempt to demonstrate the claims of religion. 

The demonstrations that were given were of course 
rationalistic. We must not be confused here; we are 
likely to think of rationalism as meaning that which 
appeared later on the Continent, more especially in 
Germany. But a characteristic feature of this conti 
nental rationalism is its hostile attitude toward_positive 
religion. Here in Englan^6T^e~seventeenth century, 
and also later though in less degree, rationalism is a way 
of thinking rather than a type of doctrinal system. It is 
a tendency or point of view, a way of approach to 
problems, it is a persistent demand that all things 
believed shall be rational. The most 

about this period is.. that all parties agree in this con 
viction, the Churchmen and the D^s^eTrEeTsTtHe^ngrrs- 
sive orthodox clergy as well as the Arminians, Socinians, 
and Deists. All creeds and religion itself must stand 
or fall according as they meet the test of the prevailing 
rationalism. If we are to accept revelation and hold 
to positive religion, it must be for adequate reasons. At 
the opening of the century Hooker laid down, and by his 
own course illustrated, the principle that "the truth of 
opinions" is guaranteed by "the soundness of those 
reasons wtver eriprm tfry same is built. This rationalistic- 
critical motive dominated the speculations of the pro 
gressive thinkers of the succeeding period. At the end 
of the century Locke stated the same principle in a 
more elaborate and systematic form, and we find it; 
applied by such champions of orthodoxy as Stillingfleet 

8o John Locke and English Deism 

and Sherlock, as well as by the whole race of Deists. 
There was no essential difference as to the demand that 
religion must be rationally grounded. 

But though there was this complete agreement 
concerning the fundamental attitude or principle, there 
was great divergence of results when it was applied. 
The favorite statement of the relation ietween the 
content of revelation and reason is the scholastic formula, 
that revelation may contain truths that are above 
reason, but cannot give anything that is contrary to it. 
This is clearly involved in Hooker s teaching and was 
expressly accepted by practically everybody except the 
Deists. We saw that even some of the earlier Deists 
held to it without question. Locke asserted and 
defended this principle and thus stood in the line of the 
rational theologians, the Cambridge Platonists, and a 
number of other progressive leaders of a more conserva 
tive type. But when we come to the period of the 
greatest influence of the deistic movement, we find a 
very different response to the demand for rationality 
in matters of religion. Toland flatly asserted that not 
only must religious truth not contradict reason^ but also 
that it cannot be above reason, and that anything tnaT~ 
is above reason must be rejected as not being a part of 
true Christianity. This is _ .the__ke.yrxo.te. of- 4he deistic 
conception of the relation J)et.ween_reaSQn_aiid positive 
religion. It is repeated by later representatives of the 
movement, sometimes in the spirit of Toland, but 
frequently it is more radically applied. In some 
instances revealed religion is declared to be superfluous 
and its documents hopelessly confused. The English 
rationalistic-critical movement of this period becomes, in 

The Two Focal Concepts 81 

its later deistic development, aggressively hostile to all 
positive Christianity. 

In a word, the period that we are studying was 
thoroughly rationalistic. Practically everybody, cer 
tainly every progressive thinker, held that religious belief 
was based on adequate reasons. Locke and such men 
of his generation as Tillotson, Stillingfleet, and Sherlock, 
and before him the Cambridge Platonists and the rational 
theologians, accepted revelation as a fact and believed 
that it could give us that which was above reason, 
though not contrary to reason. 

Deism, except in the very beginning, held that if 
there was such a thing as revelation, it could not give us 
anything above reason, and became more and more 
hostile to positive Christianity. 

Therefore it is evident that rationalism, although 
common both to Locke and Deism, is not peculiar to 
either. It is, however, characteristic of the age in which 
they flourished; and in so far as Locke or the Deists 
show this rationalistic tendency, they exemplify the 
working of the common spirit of their times. 

And when we consider the distinguishing features, 
those elements that marked and characterized the deistic 
movement as a distinct tendency in religious thought, we 
find that it differs from all others in its radical application 
of this rationalistic principle. Here Locke and the 
Deists are far apart. Both were rationalistic and critical , 
in their method, but they differ widely in the manner 
in which they applied this method. Locke was con- \ 
servative; the Deists were radical. To say that the An 
radical rationalism of Deism is only the conservative \ 
rationalism of Locke further developed, is to state a i 

82 John Locke and English Deism 

dangerous half-truth that misrepresents the situation. 
: It would be true under one condition that Locke was 

I the only rationalist of this period, or the only rationalist 
that exerted any influence. But we know that there 
were many others, that the whole atmosphere of pro 
gressive thought was rationalistic. Deism took this 
rationalistic tendency, that characterized at least the 
entire progressive movement of this age, and gave it that 
radical application which marks the deistic movement. 



A thorough study of the views held in England in 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would be a 
great undertaking. It was an age of individualism in 
religious opinion. Sects were multiplying rapidly and 
the rationalistic movement resulted in a great variety 
of beliefs. A survey of these with a view to producing a 
doctrinal history of the period would be an almost 
endless task. But the purpose of this investigation is 
the determination of the kind and degree of relation that 
exists between Locke and English Deism. For this it is 
not necessary to reconstruct the systems of divinity of 
each man, and then trace linkages. We can limit our 
attention to the main points of the religious debate that 
was then in progress. For it is among these that we 
shall find the marks that distinguish and relate Locke 
and Deism. Peripheral religious factors also vary, but 
they are seldom significant, and when they are they are 
generally closely joined to some cardinal point of 
debate. Therefore we will not miss matters of impor 
tance by limiting the scope of this investigation to the 
chief topics that Were discussed. 


If we were to judge of the religious faith of this age 
by the language of the controversies, we might conclude 


84 John Locke and English Deism 

that it was a time of great apostasy, when unbelievers 
* and misbelievers were numerous and aggressive. Per 
haps the favorite epithet for an opponent was "atheist," 
which seldom meant a denial of the existence of God, but 
only rejection of the system of doctrine which was held 
by the ecclesiastic who was doing the scolding. Many 
men who had elements of greatness lived in the dwarfing 
atmosphere of intolerance and suffered and unfortu 
nately caused others to suffer from rabies theologicum. 
It was probably an age of belief rather than of unbelief, 
although it is true that religious faith was conceived 
largely as dead assent to doctrines rather than as a 
living motive force in life. But men were seriously 
interested in religion, and, at least among those whose 
influence was sufficient to cause their opinions to survive 
in books, there is practically no trace of atheism, although 
men were talking about it all the time. 

We may say that everybody believed that there was 
a God. Men did not occupy themselves very much in 
trying to prove His existence. They were busy testing 
and proving religion. Generally it was assumed without 
much comment that man knew God and his duties 
toward Him either by common notions that were innate 
or by the use of reason which formulated proofs. Con 
trary to a common belief the Deists paid little attention 
to this part of natural theology; several of them do not 
even mention it. But-Locke-laid greaLemphasis upon 
what he calls his demonstration of the existence of God. 1 

1 The fact that the existence of God was not challenged by any party 
probably accounts for the small amount of attention that was given to 
proving it. For our purposes the views held by others are not significant; 
they cast little or no light on the relation of Locke and Deism. It is not 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 85 

He is not only full and explicit, but he returns to it 
again and again. It appears in a number of places in 
his works, often very unexpectedly. Instead of assum 
ing that there is a God, or of barely touching upon the 
way in which we know it, as do the Deists, he system 
atically develops his own proof, perhaps recognizes the 
cosmological proof and explicitly rejects that of Anselm. 

He regards our knowledge of God as very certain. 
In fact he speaks of it as a " demonstration." He. I 
believes that he can show that man by the "use of his 
natural abilities" can attain to knowledge of God 1 which 
cannot be doubted, for "it is as certain that there is a 
God as that the opposite angles made by the inter 
section of two straight lines are equal." In the opening 
paragraphs of the tenth chapter of the fourth book of t 
the Essay, where he presents his so-called "demonstra 
tion," he says that the evidence of God s existence is 
"equal to mathematical certainty." He then proceeds" 

/ ti 

to give his proof, which is as follows: 

I think it is beyond question, that man has a clear idea of his 
own being; he knows certainly he exists, and that he is something 
.... that actually exists. In the next place, man knows by | 
an intuitive certainty, 2 that bare nothing can no more produce 
any real being than it can be equal to two right angles If / 

necessary that we should consider them here. Though the proof of the 
existence of God was not a point in the deistic controversy, it is presented 
here because it tends to show that the Deists are independent of the 

" x Essay, IV, x, 2, 3, 4.1 

2 The significance- of Locke s psychological and genetic account of 
the idea of God has been much debated in Germany. Crous gives a 
good resum6 of the views held by those who have discussed the subject 
(pp. 20-21). 

86 John Locke and English Deism 

therefore we know there is some real being and that nonentity 
cannot produce any real being, it is an evident demonstration that 
from eternity, there has been something; since what was not from 
eternity had a beginning; and what had a beginning must be 
produced by something else. Next, it is evident, that what had 
its being and beginning from another, must also have all that which 
is in and belongs to its being, from another. 

The eternal source of being must also be the source 
< of all power. Hence it is all powerful; and of all 
knowledge, hence most knowing; and this is what we 
call God. "From what has been said it is plain to-jne 
we have a more certain knowledge of the existence e~a 
God than of anything our senses have not immediately 
discovered to us. Nay, I presume I may say that we 
more certainly know that there is a God than that there 
is anything else without us." 1 

In several places he seems to infer God from the 
observed purpose and order of the world. "For the 
visible marks of extraordinary wisdom and power appear 
so plainly in all the works of the creation, that a rational 
creature, who will but seriously reflect upon them, 
cannot miss the discovery of a Deity." 2 And again, 
speaking of the eye, he says "the structure of that one 
part is sufficient to convince of an all-wise Contriver. 
And he has so visible a claim to us as his workmanship 
that one of the ordinary appellations of God in Scripture 

1 Essay, IV, iii, i ff.; x, 6; xi, i, 13; xvii, 2; iii, 27. 

2 Ibid., I, iii, 9. This may be understood Ideologically; it may also 
be read cosmologically. Crous well observes that this is essentially 
cosmological, and is distinguished from his ordinary or cosmological 
proof in the stricter sense of the word by the fact that the latter takes 
as its starting-point the intuitive knowledge of our own ego (Crous, 
p. 27). 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 87 

is God, our Maker." 1 That Locke here is making use 
of the argument from design is very doubtful. If he is, 
it is neither clearly nor adequately stated, and it is so 
far from being emphasized that it appears only 

His attitude toward the ontological proof is moder 
ately skeptical in the Essay and aggressively critical in 
an unpublished paper that Lord King included in his 
work on Locke. In the former he is content to observe 
that there are temperamental differences, and that for 
this reason some arguments have more force with some 
men than with others. Yet he thinks that he may say 
that to prove the existence of Tjo^hfnnn"TrieT4a^pj;. a 
most perfect being "is an HI way 6T~establishing this 

truth. " z ^ln his commonplace boolTfor-r6go7 unoler the 
heading Deus, he discussed "Descartes proof of God 
from the idea of necessary existence." He rejects it, 
because you can just as easily prove eternal matter as 
eternal spirit; and, furthermore, although we can prove 
real being from real being we cannot prove real being 
from the mere idea of it. 3 

Locke s demonstration is but a special application 
of the well-known cosmological proof. It is very 

1 Government, pp. 1-53. Locke is arguing concerning the authority 
of parents over their children; they have such authority because they 
gave them being. He contrasts this with the complete authorship of 
our being which is in God. It is not so much the order of the parts of 
the eye as such that proves the existence of an all-wise Contriver as it 
is God s authorship of our being, that gives Him authority over us, that 
concerns Locke. 

^Essay, IV, x, 7. 

s The relatiatToTHocke to the Cartesian proof of the existence of 
God was frequently discussed in Germany during the last century. 
Crous has made a good digest of the discussion (pp. 25-26). 

88 John Locke and English Deism 

doubtful whether he uses the teleological proof, and we 
have just seen that he expressly rejected the ontological, 
mentioning it as from Descartes. 

Turning to the Deists we find that Herbert was sure 
of God s existence because he found the idea of God, as 
well as the other articles of natural religion, among the 
common notions that are given by natural instinct, and 
are innate and of all knowledge most certain. Blount 
seems to accept Herbert s views here, just as he did in 
case of the other articles of natural religion. 1 Toland 
is not clear. He says that reason is our ground for 
certainty that God exists, and in the same passage he 
appeals to common notions, apparently in the same 
sense as Herbert. He also speaks of common notions 
elsewhere. 2 Collins seems to know nothing about 
innate principles in this connection. However in one 
place, quoting from the opening of Hobbes s De Homine, 
he recognizes the importance of teleology as a proof of 
God s existence. We must conclude from the adapta 
tion of organs that they were made for their respective 
needs by an understanding being. He who would not 
reason thus "ought to be esteemed destitute of under 
standing." 3 Tindal knows of only one thing that is 
innate in man; that is desire for happiness. 4 But we 
can know that there is a God "from the marks we dis 
cern in the laws of the universe and its government." 
From those "we can demonstrate it to be governed by a 
God of infinite wisdom and goodness," and he who 

1 Blount. Miscellaneous Works, p. 136. 

2 Christianity Not Mysterious, p. 31. 

3 A Discourse on Freethinking, p. 104. 

4 Christianity as Old as Creation, p. 22. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 89 

cannot grasp this by his reason cannot know that there 
is a good and wise God. 1 Wollaston expressly rejects 
innate knowledge of God, 2 but appeals to the cosmo- 
logical proof at least twice, 3 and refers to the argument 
from purpose, although he does not work this out 
clearly. Morgan is impressed with the unity, order, 
wisdom, and design of the world. "All nature shines 
with Deity, and divine truth and perfection irresistibly 
makes its way to every rational attentive mind." 4 The 
other Deists do not seem to have any interest in prov 
ing the existence of God. They assume it as an 
unquestioned fact, and devote most of their attention 
to the relation of natural and revealed religion. 

Accordingly it appears that the Deists as a class 
seldom touch the Although at first they 
emphasize innate principles as a ground for our belief 
in God s existence, as the movement approached its 
most active and influential stage this gave way to the 
teleological proof and also, in case of Wollaston, to the 
cosmological proof. However they do not seem to have 
made a clear distinction between the last two argu 
ments. For instance, we cannot be certain that Tindal 
did not reason cosmologically. But the proof of Anselm 
does not seem to have appealed to them. It is not 
certain that any Deist mentions it. 

Summing up our results and comparing them with 
Locke s views, we find that early Deism taught that we 
have innate ideas of God, which Locke and Wollaston 

1 Ibid., p. 191. 

2 The Religion of Nature Delineated, p. 36. 

3 Ibid., pp. ii4ff., 156. 

* Physico-Theology, pp. 140 ff. 

90 John Locke and English Deism 

^/expressly rejected. It seems that Tindal also rejected 
it and it was not mentioned by the other Deists. In 
v this respect, later Deism agreed with Locke. 

Locke s proof of the existence of God was the cos- 
mological one. He thought it had the certainty of 
mathematical demonstration. Perhaps this was referred 
to by Tindal, but we find no trace of it in any other Deist. 
Thus in his main proof Locke seems to have exerted no 
influence on the Deists. 

It is uncertain whether Locke recognized the teleo- 
logical proof. 1 This was more widely held among the 
Deists than any other. Here the difference between 
them is very marked. 

Locke expressly rejected the ontological proof. The 
Deists appear to have been silent about it. 


a) Providence. There is a widespread conviction 
that the Deists denied divine Providence; that they so 
reduced the supernatural that the doctrine of the 
immanence of God in the world of our impressions 
disappears. The God of the Deists is often made to 
appear as the apex of an abstract world-system, a creative 
being that started the world-process and then withdrew 
and is now separated and isolated from it; this is the 

1 Locke s practical neglect of the teleological proof becomes all the 
more striking when we remember that both Newton and Boyle, who were 
his friends, with whom he often discussed religious problems, emphasize 
the argument from design. Was Locke s failure to use this proof due 
to his keener critical sense which enabled him to see its weaknesses that 
were brought out later? We have found nothing that casts light on 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 91 

"absentee God" of literature. 1 It is a tradition that is 
not well founded; the Deists who have survived in 
history did not hold such views. 

Nowhere does Locke give us a specific statement of 
his conception of Providence. In fact he seldom men 
tions it. He conceives God as very clearly related to \ 
our well-being here, 2 as the supreme Preserver of man 
kind, 3 and through the bounty of His Providence has 
made the useful needs cheap and within the reach of 
all. 4 "He is constantly bringing about his purposes by 
ordinary means." He makes use of miracles "only in 
cases that require them" for the evidencing of some 
revelation or mission to be sent from him. In fact, as 
will appear later, Locke s whole conception of God s 
dealings with man, in revealing to him the plan of salva 
tion and certifying it by miracles and fulfilled prophecies, 
and in making it effective, assumes an active immanence 
of God. 

Locke repeated the prevailing views of Providence 
and had no particular reason to discuss it. It is to be 
regretted that Fraser, in the notes of his critical edition 
of the Essay, does not give his reason for saying that the 

Deism "has come into use as a technical term for one specific 
metaphysical doctrine as to the relation of God to the universe, assumed 
to have been characteristic of the Deists, and to have distinguished them 
from atheists, pantheists, and theists the belief, namely, that the first 
cause of the universe is a personal God, who is, however, not only distinct 
from the world but apart from it and its concerns" (Encyclopaedia 
Britannica, art. "Deism"). 

1 Bourne, Life of John Locke, I, 180, 396. 

3 Locke, Works, VII, 85 ff. 

* Reasonableness of Christianity, Works, VII, 85. 

92 John Locke and English Deism 

idea of God "is found in very various stages of develop 
ment, and with Locke himself is external and mechanical, 
excluding immanence in the actuality of the world of 
experience. It is the deistical idea, in short." The 
writer finds no justification for this assertion concerning 
Locke, nor for this imputation concerning the Deists, 
as will appear later. Both accepted the providential 
dealings of God with His world as a fact, as did almost 
everybody else. 1 

Turning to the Deists, 2 Blount is as outspoken in his 
belief that God does "lead and guide all our thoughts, 
words, and actions" as any orthodox believer, 3 that 
God leads men, 4 that a great political event was the act 
of God. s Toland and Collins are silent on the subject. 
But Tindal quotes approvingly from Clarke s Boylean 
lecture and holds that "God preserves the world by his 
continual all- wise Providence." 6 He believes that the 
Jews, as God s chosen people, were cared for provi 
dentially. 7 Wollaston taught that "God who gives 
existence to the world, does also govern it by his Provi- 

1 Fraser, Locke s Essay Concerning the Human Understanding 
(Oxford, 1894), I, 99; Essay, IV, xvi, 13. 

2 Richard Willis in Occasional Papers (London, 1697), p. 13, entered 
into the deistic controversy and finds no objection whatever to the 
deistic doctrine of Providence; he quotes the particular Deist against 
whom his attack is directed; from this we learn that he held that God 
superintends the actions of men. 

3 Religio Laid, pp. 59, 60. 4 Ibid., pp. 63, 64. 

s Ibid., pp. 66, 81, 83, 85. This is mentioned in a number of places. 
His implicit belief in Providence and the frequency with which he 
expresses it would impress any reader with this or any other work of 

6 Christianity as Old as Creation, p. 364. 

Ibid., p. 197. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 93 

dence," and this even concerns "particular cases relating 
to rational beings." 1 Morgan, in the Preface to Physico- 
Theology, expresses the conviction that he demonstrates 
"the being, providence, continual presence, and incessant 
agency and concurrence of the Deity in all the works and 
ways of nature." He also criticizes those who would see 
the world running as a perfect clock without the Maker. 
He adds that such teaching may be good philosophy, but 
it is poor divinity. 2 But in a significant passage he 
vigorously criticizes those who do not see God acting 
through the laws of His world. He can "discover no 
difference .... between such sort of Deism and 
atheism itself." 3 The context indicates that he is 
defending the doctrine of Providence against those who 
would reduce to a minimum the supernatural factor in 
the ongoing of the world. If there were Deists who held 
such views, they were not among the leaders of the 
movement and leave no mark upon it. 4 Strange as it 
may seem, Chubb, the least educated of the Deists, is the 
only one who has given a systematic statement of the 
doctrine of Providence. There is a general Providence, 
by which God at the creation put the world under such 
laws as result in making proper provisions for the needs 
of the animal part of creation. 5 Then there is special 

1 The Religion of Nature Delineated, pp. 170, 171, 176, 279. 

2 Physico-Theology, pp. 25 ff. The seventh chapter is under the 
heading, "Of Divine Providence, or God s Preserving and Governing 
the World." He expressly accepts both general and special Providence. 

3 Ibid., p. 61. 

4 Boyle also makes a very vigorous defense of Providence; it seems 
to have been called forth by some definite attack. But there is no clue 
as to who made the attack (Works, V, 46). 

5 A Short Dissertation on Providence, Tracts, I, 142 ff. 

94 John Locke and English Deism 

Providence, which is a special interposition of God 
outside of the normal order, hence miraculous. For 
instance, a man passes a loose wall and it falls after he 
has reached a point of safety; such a conception of 
Providence "is controverted among Christians." It is 
inconceivable that God should be almost perpetually 
interfering, that there should be a sort of "perpetual 
patchwork." But he asserts without hesitation his 
conviction that God, for certain great ends, does interfere 
in the ongoing of the world. 1 

Accordingly we find no essential difference between 
the doctrine of Providence as set forth by Locke and 
as held by all the leading Deists. Both accept the 
prevailing view of God s relation to the world. Since 
it is a point on which there is no difference of opinion, it 
cannot in any way contribute to the solution of our 
special problem. This presentation is called forth by 
the more or less widespread belief that the Deists as a 
class denied Providence as commonly understood, that 
this was a distinguishing characteristic of the deistic 
movement, and that it was a point of dispute in the 
deistic controversy. 

b} Miracles. It does not seem to have occurred to 

/Locke that the fact of miracles could ever be seriously 

j, challenged. He accepted them as events that actually 

\ took place, which reason convinces us are sufficiently 

attested in history. "Miracles, which are well attested, 

do not only find credit themselves, but give it also to 

other truths, which need such confirmation." 2 He 

appeals to them frequently as testimonies wrought of 

1 A Short Dissertation on Providence, Tracts, I, pp. 149 ff. 
Essay, IV, xvi, 13; xix, 15. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 95 

God to convince men of the truth of His revelation. In 
his Essay on Miracles he says that they are the "bases 
on which divine mission is always established, and con 
sequently that foundation on which the believers of any \ 
divine revelation must ultimately bottom their faith." 1 
They certified the Messiahship of Jesus to the Jews, 
they are the credentials which God has given the bearers 
of His message to the world. 2 Locke frequently empha 
sizes the evidential value of miracles. His form of 
statement may vary; sometimes he is less extreme 
than at others; but whenever he touches revelation his 
discussion is permeated by the conviction that it is 
miraculously attested. 

This tendency in Locke to magnify the importance 
of the evidential value of miracles was not peculiar to 
him. Even the liberal Tillotson held that miracles 
were reasonable and may become, as in the case of 
biblical miracles, a convincing proof of revelation. 
This was also the opinion of Clarke. 3 Even the chemist 
Boyle not only held that miracles are a proof of the 
Christian religion, but went so far as to assert that they 
were necessary to support Christianity. 4 As we shall 
see later, miracles were considered such an important 
part of the economy of revelation that to challenge them 
was considered the same as to challenge supernatural 
revelation itself and also all positive religion. 

Between this view and the general deistic attitude 
toward miracles there is a great contrast. Their 
evidential value is at first questioned, then denied, and 

1 Locke, Works, X, 264; also pp. 259 ff. a Ibid., VII, 32. 

3 McGiffert, Protestant Thought before Kant, pp. 200, 210. 
Boyle, Works, V, 48, 52. 

g6 John Locke and English Deism 

the fact of the miracles is made to appear less and less 
probable, and eventually impossible. For Herbert 
alleged miracles and so-called revelation seemed to go 
together. Although he does not deny them, they could 
have meaning only for those who witnessed them. For 
us they are uncertain tradition. 1 It is difficult to gather 
from Blount s writings just what opinion he held con 
cerning miracles. He accepts the account of the pente- 
costal gift of tongues, 2 believes that some accounts, such 
as that of Lazarus and Dives, are founded on truth, but 
enlarged and therefore need interpretation, 3 defends 
Burnet s critically skeptical attitude toward Old Testa 
ment miracles, 4 and says, when expressing uncertainty 
concerning certain miracles connected with the birth of 
Christ, that "to believe in any stories that are not 
approved by the public authority of our Church is 
superstition; whereas to believe them that are, is 
religion." 5 He also questions the evidential value of 
miracles. He would not depend upon them lest Simon 
Magus be his rival; and, furthermore, both miracles and 
doctrine come to us by tradition. It is the spirit of 
Herbert. 6 Though Blount did not reject miracles, his 
attitude was often skeptical and hostile. This was the 
beginning of the deistic criticism of miracles. 

Coming to the leading Deists we find great difference 
of opinion concerning miracles. Some surprise us by 

1 Lechler, Geschichte des englischen Deismus, pp. 48 ff. 

2 Miscellaneous Works, pp. 165, 166. 

3 Ibid., p. 32. 

* Ibid., pp. 2 ff. 

s Philostratus, Book I, chap, iv, illustration i. 

6 Ibid., chap, v, illustrations 6 and 7. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 97 

their conservative views, while others are radical in their 
criticism. Tpland, when he is arguing that Christianity 
is not mysterious, says plainly that " Christ proves his 
authority and Gospel by such works and miracles as the 
stiffnecked Jews themselves could not deny to be 
divine." 1 However a miracle cannot be contrary to 
reason. 2 He also accepts their evidential value. 3 But 
a quarter of a century after the publication of Christianity 
Not Mysterious, he expressed himself very skeptically on 
the Old Testament miracles. He thought that not more 
than one-third of them were real miracles. The pillar 
of cloud was smoke and the fire "a human contrivance." 4 
It is probable that Toland became more liberal and 
perhaps less cautious in his later years. But even in his 
early publications the evidential value of miracles is not 
so great as with Locke and Boyle and other progressive 

Collins seems to accept miracles as a fact, 5 although 
he is inclined to explain away some of them. 6 However 
a miracle is not sufficient to give authority to a prophet 
attempting to prove anything contrary to natural 
religion. 7 In fact even "the miracles wrought by Jesus 

1 Christianity Not Mysterious, p. 47. He defines a miracle in much 
the same sense as Locke and Clarke: "A miracle then is some action 
exceeding all human power and which the laws of nature cannot perform 
by their ordinary operations" (p. 144). 

* Ibid., p. 145. 3 Ibid., p. 147. 

4 Hodegus (London, 1720), pp. 5 ff. 

3 A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion 
(London, 1737), p. 33. 

6 A Discourse on Freethinking, p. 160. 
> Ibid., pp. 174, 175. 

98 John Locke and English Deism 

are, according to the Gospel scheme, no absolute proof 
of his being the Messias, or of the truth of Christianity." 1 

Tindal, though hostile to miracles, does not expressly 
deny them, nor does he say that the Deists deny them, 2 
but he believes there are many miracles found elsewhere 
that are of like nature to those of the Bible. In fact 
"there are no miracles recorded in the Bible, but many of 
the like nature are to be found in pagan histories"; 3 
they have no evidential value if evil as well as good 
beings can perform them. 4 He calls attention to Clarke s 
Boylean lecture, in which Clarke claims that there are 
indifferent or possible doctrines, in addition to positive 
or ethical, which can be believed on the witness of 
miracles. 5 Then Tindal adds: "Here these Deists beg 
leave to differ with him," both as to whether there are 
indifferent doctrines and as to whether they can be 
proved by miracles. 

Wollaston is silent concerning miracles. Apparently 
they have no place in the religion of nature, which he 

Woolston, in the sixth discourse on the miracles of 
our Savior, denies that there was such an event as the 
carnal resurrection of Jesus, and asserts that the accounts 
of it are absurd, impossible, and inaccurate. One might 
almost conclude from his discussion of it that Jesus was 
an impostor. At least this much is clear to him, many 
of the miracles recorded by the evangelists were never 
wrought, and those of Jesus "as they are nowadays 

1 A Discourse of the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, 
P- 33- 

3 Christianity as Old as Creation, pp. 373 ff. 

* Ibid., p. 192. Ibid., p. 200. * Ibid., p. 370. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 99 

understood, make nothing for his authority and Messiah- 
ship." 1 Woolston undertakes to explain these accounts 
allegorically. His attitude toward them is often that of 
coarse jesting. 

Although Bolingbroke at times refers to miracles in a 
somewhat uncertain way, 2 he accepts them as con 
firmations of revelation wrought by God for the estab 
lishing of the Christian religion. Christ "proved his 
assertion at the same time by his miracles." 3 Boling- 
broke s doctrine of miracles is that of the orthodox men 
of his times that is, he accepted miracles as historical 
facts, out of the ordinary, wrought by God to attest the 
truth of His revelation to man. 

Morgan, in the second volume of The Moral Phi 
losopher, seems to hold almost the same opinion con 
cerning miracles that we found in Tindal; 4 but in the 
first volume he simply assumes miracles as matters of 
fact 5 and believes that the power of working miracles has 
no connection with truth. False prophets also per 
formed them. 6 The historical fact is not challenged; 
the evidential value is denied. 

Chubb agrees with Morgan; at times he seems to 
assume a somewhat skeptical attitude toward miracles; 7 

1 A Discourse on the Miracles of Our Saviour (London, 1728), pp. 3-5. 

2 Works, VI, 240, 258, 259. 

3 Ibid., p. 351. "The faith, which God himself came to earth to 
publish, which was confirmed by miracles, and recorded by divine 
inspiration," etc. Stupendous miracles accompany God s revelation of 
His Son (pp. 283, 285). St. Paul "worked indeed now and then a mir 
acle, as it was given him to work them" (p. 288). 

The Moral Philosopher, II, 50 ff. 

5 Ibid., I, 79. 6 Ibid., pp. 89, 98, 99. 

7 The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted, pp. 43 ff. 

ioo John Locke and English Deism 

but he believes that they actually occurred, though they 
cannot afford certain, but only probable, proof that a 
revelation is divine. 1 

Generally speaking the deistic attitude toward 
miracles was hostile. However, few doubted that they 
actually occurred. Some of the biblical accounts might 
be questioned or even denied, but special divine inter 
vention in the course of the world was not challenged. 
Some of the Deists held that miracles might be performed 
by other powers by evil spirits or even by the devil. 
The miraculous as such was not considered impossible; 
but, with the exception of Toland and Bolingbroke, the 
Deists rejected the evidential value of miracles. They 
cannot prove the truth of revelation. This was a radical 
departure from the prevailing opinion of the times. 

This attitude toward miracles stands in marked 
contrast with that of Locke. Nowhere in his writings 
do we find anything that suggests the hostile criticism of 
miracles that characterizes the Deists. The lion of 
rationalism is made to lie down in peace with the lamb 
of traditionalism and not devour it. For him miracles 
are facts in history, so well authenticated that we must 
believe them. They were special acts of God, wrought 
by Him to certify to the truth of His messengers, so that 
the man of sound reason had adequate ground for 
accepting His revelation. Locke s rationalism did not 
venture beyond the beaten paths, while the deistic 
rationalism opened up new lines of criticism. It 

1 The True Gospel of Christ Asserted, pp. 8 ff.; An Enquiry Con 
cerning Redemption, pp. 105, 106; Remarks on Britanni ens Letters (London, 
1 734)> P- i- In the latter part of The True Gospel of Christ Asserted, 
he assumes a very critical and somewhat skeptical attitude toward 
miracles, but he nowhere denies them as historical events. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 101 

questioned certain biblical records of miraculous events 
and attacked the long-cherished Christian conviction 
that miracles were an argument, perhaps an unanswer 
able argument, for the divine origin of the Scriptures 
of the Old and New Testaments. The contrast between 
these two views is marked. Locke accepts the scriptural 
accounts just as he finds them, and gives what he 
considers adequate reasons for doing so, and concludes 
that we have in the miracles of the Bible historical facts 
and divine witnesses to its truth. The Deists challenged 
at least some accounts of miracles and almost unani 
mously denied their evidential value. Theirs was 
another and a very different spirit. 


We have learned that neither Locke nor the Deists 
conceived God as dwelling in isolation, unconcerned for 
the welfare of his world. We would therefore naturally 
expect that they would think of the Creator and Ruler 
and Upholder of the universe as having some special 
designs for man s well-being, some plans or principles for 
directing his life which He would make known to man. 
This is what we find both Locke and the Deists teaching. 
Everybody believed that God reveals His will, that man 
can know what God would have him do, and that rewards 
or punishments are ours according as we obey or disobey 
God s will. The fact of revelation is never challenged. 
But when we go beyond this opinions differ widely. 
Assuming that there is a revelation, some further ques 
tions arise. How is it given, how does God make known 
His will to man, how does the Infinite communicate to the 
finite ? And, again, assuming that there is a revelation, 

io2 John Locke and English Deism 

what is God s message to man, what does He com 
municate to us, what is the content of revelation ? Can 
we take the Bible just as it is to be His revelation ? 
These questions lead us to one of the chief battle grounds 
of the deistic controversy. Perhaps in no other field can 
we see so clearly the lines that divide the Deists from the 
more orthodox men of the period that we are studying. 
If you know a man s attitude toward revelation, you can 
classify him quite accurately. Here, as in the case of 
miracles, there is a radical difference between Locke and 
Deism. We shall see that this difference pertains to the 
relative importance that is assigned to reason and 
nature, as over against the supernatural factor, in 
mediating revelation, and to the consequent conception 
of the contents of revelation. In the preceding chapter 
we considered the place of reason and nature in religious 
matters. It will therefore not be necessary for us to 
make an extensive survey of the opinions of other writers 
of the liberal movement. 

Though Locke does not give us a full and systematic 
discussion of revelation, he has indicated plainly what 
he holds concerning it, so that we can reconstruct his 
views with confidence. Worcester is right in asserting 
that Locke assumes the possibility of revelation without 
.remark. 1 We may go farther and say that Locke 
assumes the fact of revelation, which he undertakes to 
define, limit, and rationalize as far as possible. In the 
Essay, Book IV, chapters xviii and xix, he discusses 
Faith and Reason and Enthusiasm, and makes many 
references to revelation. He defines faith as assent to 

1 E. E. Worcester, The Religious Opinions of John Locke (Geneva, 
N.Y., 1889), p. 23. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 103 

a proposition "not thus made out by the deductions of 
reason, but upon the credit of the proposer, as coming 1 1 
from God, in some extraordinary way of communication. | 
This way of discovering truth to men we call revelation." 1 
Perhaps his best definition of revelation is given in the 
passage already quoted in the study of reason in the 
preceding chapter, in which reason and revelation are 
contrasted. "Reason is natural revelation, whereby 
the eternal Father of light and fountain of all knowledge 
communicates to mankind that portion of truth which he 
has laid within the reach of their natural faculties; 
revelation is natural reason enlarged by a new set of 
discoveries communicated by God immediately; which 
reason vouches the truth of, by the testimony and proof 
it gives that they come from God." So that to deny 
reason in the interest of revelation "puts out the light 
of both." 2 

Reason and revelation in the narrower sense are set 
over against each other. Both are from God. Each 
brings to us some portion of God s truth; revelation 
enlarges natural reason by giving man something from 
God immediately, by some extraordinary means of 
communication, which is vouched for by reason. 

Locke clearly teaches that revelation is no ordinary 
communication; its supernatural character never seems 
to have been questioned by him. We have just seen, 
in the preceding section, that he is convinced that its 
bearers come with the special stamp of divine approval 
in the miracles that God enabled them to perform. 
Being no ordinary communication from God, it was 

1 Essay, IV, xviii, 2. 

io4 John Locke and English Deism 

natural that it should be accompanied by extraordinary 

He also holds that revelation brings us some things 
; that unaided reason could never discover; it thus 
becomes supplemental to natural light. There are 
things that are above the reach of reason, of which we 
can have no knowledge; yet these "when revealed are 
\ the proper naatter of faith," such as the rebellion of 
I angels, the resurrection of the dead and the like; 1 and 
in certain things where reason ,can give us but probabil 
ity, revelation "must carry it against the probable con 
jecture of reason. In the Reasonableness of Christianity, 
he was disposed to enlarge the scope of that which we 
have from revelation, that reason could not discover. 
; He emphasized the contrast between the ethics of natural 
and revealed religion. 

He also teaches that we accept revelation because 
reason certifies to its being revelation. Though revela 
tion is supernatural and can give man that which is 
above reason, it cannot be accepted on its own authority. 2 
We saw in the preceding chapter that it had its creden 
tials from reason: and when we receive anything as 
revealed by God our assurance can be "no greater than 
our knowledge is that it is a revelation from God." 3 

1 Essay, TV, xviii, 7. 3 Ibid., 6. 

3 Ibid., IV, xviii, 5. "Whatever God hath revealed is certainly 
true; no doubt can be made of it. This is the proper object of faith; but 
\ whether it be a divine revelation or no, reason must judge; which can 
j I never permit the mind to reject a greater evidence to embrace what is 
i (less evident, not allow it to entertain probability in opposition to knowl 
edge and certainty. There can be no evidence that any traditional 
irevelation is of divine original, in the words we receive it, and in the 
isense we understand it, so clear and so certain, as that of the principles 

Main Points in Religious Discussions ic( 

Hence faith is a persuasion short of knowledge. 1 But 
once we are persuaded by sound reason that a revelation 
is from God, "we may as well doubt of our own being, as 
we can whether any revelation from God is true." 2 

The closing paragraph of Locke s first letter to 
Stillingfleet gives his attitude toward the Holy Scripture. 
It is his constant guide; it contains infallible truth, and 1 / 
he is ready to condemn and quit any opinion once it ( 
is shown to be contrary to any revelation in Holy I 
Scripture. 3 

Though Locke s attitude toward revelation is 
thoroughly rationalistic, the conclusion at which he I 
finally arrives is very conservative. He is convinced 
that he has sufficient reason for believing that the 
Scriptures are God s revelation to man with full divine / 
authority, supernaturally given and certified by miracles/ 
and prophecy. 

Locke accepted prophecy and its fulfilment as fact. 
For him it was not just a special part of God s super 
natural revelation to man. It was given, as the rest 
of the Bible, in a manner that is out of the ordinary. 

of reason; and therefore nothing that is contrary to, and inconsistent 
with, the clear and self-evident dictates of reason has a right to be urged 
or assented to as a matter of faith, wherein reason hath nothing to do. 
Whatsoever is divine revelation ought to overrule all our opinions, 
prejudices, and interests, and hath a right to be received with full assent" 
(Essay, IV, xviii, 10). 

1 Locke, Works, VI, 144. This term played an important part in his 
controversy with Stillingfleet. 

2 Essay, IV, xvi, 14. "Not to believe what he has revealed .... 

calls his veracity into question For the holy inspired writings 

being all of the same divine authority, must all equally in every article 
be fundamental, and necessary to be believed" (Works, VII, 234). 

Locke, Works, IV, 96. 

io6 John Locke and English Deism 

But much of it has been fulfilled in the later stages of the 

revealing of the plan of salvation ; and this becomes the 

s proof of the divine character of all revelation. This is 

ian additional witness to the truth of Scripture, which, as 

we have just seen, Locke considered synonymous with 

revelation. Miracles and prophecies fulfilled are 

evidences for revelation that no man with sound reason 

can reject. Paul confirmed the gospel by two sorts of 

arguments: the one was the revelations made concerning 

our Savior, by types and figures and prophecies of Him ; 

the other by miracles. 1 Christ, now He is come, so 

! exactly answers the types, prefigurations and predictions 

I of Him, in the Old Testament, that presently, upon 

( turning our eyes upon Him, he visibly appears to be the 

I person designed"; and the obscurity of many passages 

becomes clear. 2 Thus the New Testament has, in 

addition to the miracles that were wrought by Christ 

and the apostles, the proof from the fulfilment of the 

Old Testament prophecy. 

When we study the teachings of the Deists con 
cerning revelation, we find ourselves in a different 
atmosphere. Herbert did not deny revelation, but he 
conceived it as mediated to us under such conditions 
as make it very uncertain. It was real revelation only 
to him that first received it. To us of a later time it is 
but tradition; and the reliability of a tradition depends 
upon the reliability of the narrator and can never be 
more than probable. There was great opportunity for 
fraud, and as a matter of fact deception had been prac 
ticed. 3 Blount, apparently under the influence of 

Locke, Works, VIII, 86. 

1 Ibid., p. 200. 3 Sorley, Mind (1894), p. 507. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 107 

Herbert, asks, "Whether I am obliged to accept of 
another s revelation for the ground of my faith?" 1 He 
generally answers this question in a conservative way. 
"For my own part, I who believe the Scriptures to be 
the word of God, do in this point, as in all others, resign 
up my poor judgment to that sacred oracle." 2 However 
at times he assumes a critical attitude toward certain 
portions of the Bible. 3 

1 Religio Laid, p. 94. 

3 Anima Mundi (London, 1679), pp. 25, 31, 95. The only account 
of the Jews that we can rely on "is the Old Testament Scriptures, which 
as everybody knows, was dictated by the Holy Spirit." Miscellaneous 
Works, p. 136. 

3 Miscellaneous Works, p. 147; Philostratus, Book I, chap, vi, 
illustration 5; Book I, chap, xvii, illustration 2. 

In the Oracles of Reason there is printed a letter to Blount from one 
whose identity remains hidden behind the initials of his name. He 
holds that revelation cannot be a necessary supplement to natural 
religion, because the latter is the only general means to happiness that 
has been proposed and must therefore be adequate and known to all men. 
This letter was published as a part of the Oracles of Reason, which was 
recognized as representative of the deistic movement at that time. 

Stillingfleet s Letter to a Deist, which is said to be the first formal 
reply to Deism that is known, sheds much light on the sort of views that 
he was opposing. Works (London, 1709), II, 120 ff. The Deist whom 
he is answering found all manner of confusion in the Bible and sought out 
and magnified the difficulties. He set forth the points agreed upon which 
are but an enlargement of those which Herbert had held. His seven 
objections to the authority of Scripture are extremely radical: (i) 
There is no certainty of an event so long ago; we have many fictitious 
histories. (2) Probably these were written when no one lived who could 
contradict what was said. (3) They could more easily do this before 
printing was known. (4) Perhaps there were more impostors engaged in 
giving false revelation and miracles than we can now discover. (5) We 
should not take the testimony of Scripture or Christian writers, for they 
may be prejudiced. (6) Contradictions and inconsistencies in the Bible, 
unfulfilled prophecies, obscurity, imperfections of persons mentioned, 
justify suspicion of the truth of it. (7) We have cause to doubt the 

io8 John Locke and English Deism 

Toland, in the Preface to Christianity Not Mysterious, 
frankly says: "In the following discourse the divinity of 
the New Testament is taken for granted." 1 For him 
the authority of God is the same as divine revelation; 
however this revelation "is not a necessitating motive of 
assent, but a means of information." 2 Yet the ultimate 
proof of the divinity of Scripture rests upon reason, and 
all doctrines and principles of the New Testament must 
agree with natural reason. 3 

Though Collins said that the Bible was "given us 
at diverse times by God himself," 4 he also believes that 
a natural duty was "of more indispensable obligation 
than any positive precept of revealed religion." 5 

In Tindal we come to the more radical development 
of the deistic view of revelation. He starts out from the 
thesis that external and internal revelation must agree, 
must in fact be the same; the standard of the latter must 
be the basis for judging the former. 6 Hence revelation 

apostles sincerity they "might have indirect ends in divulging the 
miracles recorded in Scripture." 

It is evident that Stillingfleet had in mind some writer who held 
almost all of the characteristically radical opinions of later Deism. 

1 Christianity Not Mysterious, pp. xxiv and 4. 

1 Ibid., pp. 18, 38, 65; Vindicius Liberius (London, 1702), p. 104; 
Letters to Serena, pp. 19, 56. 

3 Christianity Not Mysterious, pp. 32 ff., 46. 
* A Discourse on Freethinking, p. 10. 

s Ibid., p. 174. In the Preface to A Discourse on the Grounds and 
Reasons of the Christian Religion, he assumes a somewhat unfriendly 
attitude toward the Old Testament and sees difficulties in its divergence 
from the New Testament. 

6 Christianity as Old as Creation, pp. 8, 59, 188. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 109 

cannot supplement reason. 1 Therefore external revela 
tion, in addition to the light of nature, is not necessary. 2 
He even claims that had our documents of revelation 
asserted authority without relying upon reason, they 
would have had no authority. 3 Here reason is not only 
the authority that certifies that an alleged revelation is 
revelation; it becomes also the judge of that which 
revelation brings. Revelation is made to depend on 
reason to a greater extent than in any previous writer. 
Bolingbroke would test the Old Testament, as every 
other historical work, by seeing whether its contents 
squared with experience. 4 By this test we find that 
" there are gross defects and palpable falsehoods in almost 
every page of Scripture." Their whole tenor is such 
that one who would believe in an all-wise Being cannot 
believe them to be His word. 5 He even says: "Can 
he be less than mad who boasts a revelation superadded 
to reason?" and then adds reason to revelation. And 
into such madness St. Paul, Augustine, Malebranche, 
and the Bishop of Cloyne fell. 6 And concerning the 
reliability of the records, we have only opinion to attest 
supernatural revelation handed down by tradition; 
hence there is a decreasing probability of its being true; 
while natural religion suffers no diminution. The 
original pure gospel of Christ was supplemented from 

1 Ibid., p. 69. "Whatever is true by reason, can never be false by 
revelation" (p. 178). 

2 Ibid-, p. 195. "The Scripture can be only a secondary rule, as far 
as it is found agreeable to the nature of things." The ultimate criterion 
of revelation is subjective (pp. 188, 190). Revelation so far as it is 
reasonable is not set aside by reason (p. 213). 

s Ibid., pp. 210 ff. s Ibid., p. 148. 

Bolingbroke, Works, VI, 238. 6 Ibid., pp. 170, 171. 

no John Locke and English Deism 

heathen sources; hence not all of the New Testament is 
gospel. Even in the very beginning it was changed by 
Paul, for his gospel is different from that of Christ. 1 
Turning to the purpose of revelation, which, in spite 
of his racial hostility, he seems to accept as a fact, 
Bolingbroke finds that "it was not given to convince 
men of the reasonableness of morality, but to enforce the 
practice of it by a superior authority." 2 

Morgan assumes revelation as a fact. 3 Yet it is no 
guaranty of the truth of that which was revealed save 
to the first person who received it; for all who came 
later have the account transmitted through tradition. 4 
In the Tracts, his first publication, he held that revela 
tion may be able to give man that which unaided reason 
could not reach; 5 but in The Moral Philosopher he 
teaches that revelation cannot give us anything above 
reason, to which it must always appeal. 6 In fact the 
only thing left for us to do is to appeal to reason, for in 
so-called revelation there is confusion everywhere. 7 
Morgan believes that he has proved that revelation is 

1 Bolingbroke, Works, pp. 303, 350 ff., 354-56; VII, 39 ff. 

1 Ibid., VI, 329, 330. In the Sermon on the Mount, "revelation 
commands what it is impossible to obey, without an assistance unknown 
to reason" (p. 331). 

3 The Moral Philosopher, I, 15, 20. 
Ibid., pp. 8 1, 82. 

s Tracts, X, 18. In the preceding chapter he discusses the use of the 
concept of reason. 

6 The Moral Philosopher, III, 84 ff . Nothing miraculous or supernat 
ural can have any authority over reason (p. 134). Physico-Theology, 
pp. 328 ff. The authority of any doctrine is grounded in nature or 
reason, not in the manner of its communication (p. 126). 

i Physico-Theology, pp. 144 ff. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions in 

not infallible, and that those ancient Jewish historians 
were not under any unerring guidance of the Holy 
Ghost. 1 

Chubb recognizes some sort of revelation, and Christ 
as a mediator of a divine revelation to the world, and 
our accounts of these revelations of God as "in the main 
strictly true," though we must make allowance for 
error. 2 But our certainty of revelation rests not barely 
on the fact of "divine declaration," but "on the ground 
of reason." 3 

It will be instructive here to note what some of the 
critics of Deism indicated as the objectionable element 
in the movement. It is significant that their attitude 
toward revelation forms one of the main points of 
attack, and sometimes almost the only point of attack. 
Stillingfleet selects this as their most objectionable 
teaching. 4 Boyle discusses the objections of Deists to 
Scripture and revelation, and concludes that "Deists 
must, to maintain their negative creed, swallow greater 
improbabilities than Christians, to maintain the positive 
creed of the Apostles." 5 Richard Willis argues against 
those who say that revelation is impossible. 6 These 
were the early critics of the deistic movement; they 
knew it as it was a generation before Tindal uttered his 

1 The Moral Philosopher, III, Preface. 

2 The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted, pp. xi, 12; An Enquiry 
Concerning the Books of the New Testament, whether They Were Written 
by Inspiration (London, 1734), pp. 5, 6. 

3 The True Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted, pp. 137, 139. 

4 A Letter to a Deist in Origines Sacrae (Oxford, 1797), Vol. II. 
s Boyle, Works, V, 660, 66 1. 

6 Occasional Papers, I; A Letter to a Deist. 

ii2 John Locke and English Deism 

radical views. Stillingfleet and probably Boyle directed 
their criticisms against unknown writers of a deistic 
literature before Toland and perhaps before Blount. 
It is evident that even in its early stages the deistic 
movement was characterized by a hostile attitude toward 
revelation; and it is also plain that the defenders of the 
more orthodox position considered this one of the most 
objectionable features. 

In their attitude toward the prophetic portions of 
revelation we find a like difference between the Deists 
and Locke, who agrees with the more conservative 
writers of the progressive movement. Though Blount 
seldom refers to prophecy, he is very critical in what he 
says. Moses, Elijah, Isaiah, and many other prophets 
failed, for prophecies were suspended. Sometimes they 
deceived each other. 1 Toland scarcely mentions proph 
ecy. He seems however to accept it as a fact. 2 Collins 
is critical and hostile in his attitude toward it, though 
he does not make an open denial of it. 3 However, he 
challenges it as a proof of revelation, assuming that in 
many instances an allegorical interpretation is neces 
sary. 4 Tindal; contrary to what we would naturally 
expect, seeks to avoid the discussion of prophecy. Yet 
he shows that he is as critical here as elsewhere. He 
asserts that the apostles were deceived by prophecy; 
then how can we be certain? 5 Woolston accepted 

1 Religio Laid, pp. 37-47; Philoslratus, Book I, chap, xvii, illustra 
tion 2; Miscellaneous Works, pp. 162-65. 
3 Christianity Not Mysterious, p. 90. 

3 A Discourse on Freethinking, pp. 153 ff. 

4 A Discourse on the Grounds and Reasons of the Christian Religion, 
pp. 35 ff., 41, 94. 

5 Christianity as Old as Creation, pp. 258-62. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 113 

prophecy as a fact, and even went so far as to say that he 
believed that the controversy concerning Christ s 
mission "will end in the absolute demonstration of 
Jesus Messiahship from prophecy," and not from 
miracles. He would apply the allegorical method of 
interpretation to all prophecy. 1 Bolingbroke seems to 
accept prophecy as a fact, but does not discuss it. 2 
Morgan holds that prophecy is no proof for us of the 
truth of anything that others report. He seems to 
accept prophecy as fact, but denies to it as well as to 
miracles any evidential value; Christ was not the 
fulfiller of Jewish prophecy. 3 Chubb did not mention 
prophecy in anything that he published; however in a 
posthumous pamphlet he asserted that it would not 
prove the truth of Scripture. 4 

Looking backward over the survey of the opinions of 
Locke and the Deists concerning revelation and Scrip 
tures, we see that the difference in point of view or 
method, that was set forth in the preceding chapter, has 
brought its fitting results in their widely divergent 
attitudes toward supernatural revelation and its record. 
Both were rationalistic; both appealed to nature and 
reason as over against authority. But in making this 
appeal Locke was conservative and emphasized the 
limits of unaided reason in the field of religion, whereas 
the Deists were radical and magnified those factors 
which tended to weaken the authority of an externally 

1 A Discourse on the Miracles of Our Saviour, pp. i, 2. 

2 Bolingbroke, Works, VI, 351. 

3 The Moral Philosopher, I, 343 ff.; II, xxviii. 

4 Chubb, Posthumous Works (London, 1748), II, 139 ff. 


ii4 John Locke and English Deism 

given revelation. Accordingly, when they come to the 
discussion of revelation, they consider it from different 
and ever more widely diverging points of view. One 
cannot pass from Locke to Tindal without being sensible 
of the great chasm that exists between them. The 
former, a reverent, pietistic rationalist, saw in every 
part of Scripture God s supernaturally given message 
for guiding man to salvation, which message he accepted 
as from God on grounds which his reason convinced him 
were sufficient; though this conviction fell short of 
certain knowledge. And once he was led on the basis 
of sufficient reason to accept a book as from God, he was 
ready to give up any opinion that was not in harmony 
with it. Though he believed that revelation could not 
and did not bring to man anything that was contrary to 
reason, its message might be above it. Tindal, whose 
chief book became one of the most influential and 
representative deistic writings, challenged revelation 
and the Bible in the spirit of a more radical rationalism; 
Scripture becomes only a secondary rule; revelation 
can give us nothing above reason and nothing that 
reason cannot attain; hence it is not necessary. The 
contrast could scarcely be greater. Locke is reverential 
in his attitude toward the old beliefs, and uses his 
rationalistic method to establish the supernatural 
sanctions; Tindal and the typical Deists are hostilely 
critical toward the old beliefs, and apply their 
rationalistic method to the destruction of the tradi 
tional supernatural sanctions in the interest of estab 
lishing the sole normative authority of that which 
is naturally mediated. The former is a "super- 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 115 

natural rationalist"; the latter are anti-supernatural 
rationalists. 1 

Comparing the views of these very divergent systems 
concerning revelation, we find that Locke accepts super 
natural revelation as a fact, and that the Deists also 
accepted it, but with considerable reservation. For him 
it was synonymous with the Bible; for the Deists it was 
not, though opinions differed somewhat in this, becoming 
more hostile as the movement advanced. Locke was 
convinced that we as rational beings could not accept 
anything, not even revelation, without sufficient reason; 
so were the Deists. But he also held that revelation 
can and does give us that which unassisted reason could 
not attain, though it is in harmony with reason; the 
Deists denied this, though here again there was some 
difference of opinion. Locke taught that revelation \/ 
supplements reason; with few exceptions the Deists said 
that this was impossible. For Locke reason is insuffi 
cient to give us all that is necessary for salvation, 
revelation is necessary; again the Deists dissent. 
Locke accepted prophecy as a fact, and recognized in 
fulfilled prophecy evidence of the divine origin of 
Scripture; the Deists as a group, perhaps all of the 
more important Deists, also accept prophecy as a fact, 
but, with the surprising exception of Woolston, they deny 
to it any evidential value, and are generally skeptical 
and critical in their treatment of it. 

The term "supernatural rationalism" was used by McGiffert in 
Protestant Thought before Kant, pp. 199 ff., for describing the views of 
such men as Tillotson, Locke, Clarke, and others. It is accurately 
descriptive. Though they held firmly to the supernatural, they were 
thoroughly rationalistic. 

n6 John Locke and English Deism 

With the help of naturalistic principles Locke 
attempted to free from blind authority-belief and to 
ground rationally the essential elements of the tradi 
tional view of revelation as supernatural; while the 
Deists became ever more hostile and skeptical toward it, 
challenging now this, now that, and, though they did not 
deny it outright, they reduced the supernatural in 
revelation almost to the vanishing-point. 


At no time did the deistic controversy challenge the 
fact of religion. Just as everybody believed that there 
was a God, so they believed that man stood in some 
relation to Him which involved certain obligations on 
the human side. Attention has been called to the free 
and easy use of epithets at this time; the controversial 
literature was full of scolding names. But even if there 
were atheists, they were not Deists. Both the Deists 
and their critics accepted religion as an unchallenged 
fact. But since so many of the industrious orthodox 
pamphleteers identified religious faith with the accept 
ance of a set of authoritatively formulated dogmas, 
dissent from such man-made standards was considered 
irreligion. Even among the Protestants "human 
glosses," as Locke called such dogmas, were treated as 

rules of faith that believers must accept. This, along 
with "popery," was the religion of authority, against 
which the rational theologians, the Cambridge "Lati 
tude Men," Locke, and the Deists were continually pro- 

; testing. But religion itself was not denied at any time. 

In the preceding chapter we noted the use that was 

made of the concepts of nature and reason in discussing 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 117 

religious topics. We saw that they were extensively 
used throughout the period that we are considering; 1 
they were important motives in the speculative thought 
of England at this time. At least the more progressive 
minds sought to account for and to justify the existence 
of principles and institutions by deriving them from 
nature or from nature and reason. Nothing should be 
accepted as true by an intelligent being, such as man, 
unless it is grounded in the nature of things and is in 
harmony with right reason. 


It was inevitable that religion should be subjected 
to this test. If the lesser things of life are rational, 
certainly that which is man s "supreme concernment" \ 
cannot be irrational; and if human institutions have 
an anchorage in the nature of things, religion, which is 
a divine institution, cannot have less, and it may have 
more. And, above all, the heathen apparently without 
any revelation learned to know God and their relations 
to Him merely by the use of their natural powers. 
Natural religion was a fact that could be verified. This 
conviction was an inheritance from former centuries. 
The question at once arises as to its value, and as to 
what sort of relation exists between it and revealed . 
religion. Which is supreme ? Is it to be judged by 
positive religion, or is positive religion to be judged by 
it ? These questions were much debated in England of 
the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and opinions 

1 They were a heritage from former periods, but whence they came 
need not concern us here. Their origin and the history of their use are 
not relevant to our problems. 

1 1 8 John Locke and English Deism 

differed widely. They constituted one of the significant 
problems of the age. We can classify men according to 
their answers. Though certain phases of this problem 
were touched upon in the study of the use of the concepts 
of nature and reason, its most important phase, which 
concerns the relation of natural and revealed religion, 
has not been adequately considered. We shall therefore 
make a critical survey of the views that were held 
concerning natural religion by the more influential 
progressive thinkers, from Hooker until the decline of 
the deistic movement. 

a) The rational theologians. The first two books of 
Hooker s Ecclesiastical Polity are concerning natural 
law and divine law. In the preceding chapter we saw 
that in his discussion of these subjects he has much to 
say concerning nature and reason, the source of their 
authority and what they can and what they cannot give 
us. This law of reason or nature is from God, and comes 
with His authority. 1 It can show us that there is a God, 
and certain of our duties toward Him; 2 but it is limited, 
it cannot teach us what we "should do that we might 
attain unto life everlasting"; the way of salvation is 
supernaturally given, revelation is necessary, it supplies 
the insufficiency of the light of nature. 3 According to 
Hooker man by unaided reason can know something of 
God and his relations to Him; the light of nature is 
sufficient to enable him to know certain duties, but the 
way of salvation must be supernaturally revealed. He 
clearly recognizes natural religion, though he scarcely 
uses the term, but he also emphasizes its limitations. 

1 Hooker, Works, I, 205, 227, 232, 233. 2 Ibid., pp. 230, 231. 
s Ibid., pp. 331, 333, also 234, 259, 269, and elsewhere. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 119 

This, with individual modifications, was the position 
taken by the rational theologians. It did not occur to 
anyone to deny that man by his natural powers could 
know God, and could have some sense of religion. Even 
Stillingfleet in his Irenicum taught that by reason we can 
discover the "law of nature" which comes from God, and 
therefore "cannot be superseded by any positive human 
or divine enactments"; and "things clearly deducible 
from the law of nature .... may be practised in the 
Church." 1 It is significant that Stillingfleet in his 
controversy with Locke did not find fault with Locke s 
attitude toward natural religion. Tillotson, another 
contemporary of Locke, would test revelation by our 
"natural notions about religion." Sherlock said in a 
sermon that "the Gospel is the true original religion of 
reason and nature," and that if it "represents the 
religion of nature, it need but appeal to a man s reason 
for acceptance." However he added: "The religion 
of the Gospel is the true original religion of reason and 
nature. It is so in part; it is all that, and more." 2 
And a little later Prideaux in his Letter to the Deists went 
so far as to say: "Let what is written in all the books of 
the New Testament be tried by that which is the touch 
stone of all religion, I mean that religion of nature and 
reason which God has written in the hearts of every one 
of us from the first creation; and if it varies from it in 
any one particular" it is an argument strong enough to 
overthrow it. Even Bishop Butler, the great champion 
of orthodoxy against the Deists, writes in the first chapter 
of the second part of the Analogy: "For though natural 

1 Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy, I, 427-30. 
* Sermons Preached on Several Occasions, V, 134-43, 148. 

i2o John Locke and English Deism 

religion is the foundation and principal part of Chris 
tianity, it is not in any sense the whole of it." In fact 
he is ready to go almost as far as Prideaux, who published 
his book a few years later. "If in revelation there be 
found any passages, the seeming meaning of which is 
contrary to natural religion, we may most certainly 
conclude such seeming meaning not to be the real one." 1 
Yet however much they magnified natural religion, and 
however plainly they recognized its normative character, 
they were all careful to say that it was inadequate to 
meet the religious needs of man. Some of these church 
leaders were considered liberal, but most of them were 
recognized as the great apologists of their time. We 
can safely take their views as representative of the 
orthodox progressive leaders in the church. 

b) The philosophers. The philosophers of the period 
recognized natural religion, but there was not full agree 
ment as to the importance it should have. In our study 
of the use that was made of nature and reason as ground 
ing principles for laws and institutions, we saw that 
though Bacon recognized natural religion he assigned a 
modest place to natural theology, and that Hobbes also 
recognized it, though he accounted for it in another way. 
In the union of philosophy and Christianity, which the 
Cambridge Platonists sought to effect, the place of 
natural religion was at least as clearly recognized as it 
was by the theologians. Whichcote s striking expression 
may be taken as characteristic of the whole school: 
"The spirit in man is the candle of the Lord, lighted by 
God, and lighting man to God." 2 With nothing but our 

1 Essays and Reviews, pp. 267, 268. 
3 Tulloch, op. cit., II, 99. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 121 

natural faculties, we can "ascend the world s great altar- 
stairs that slope through darkness up to God." Unaided 
reason can attain to a knowledge of certain of the funda 
mental elements of religion; but, however much man 
knows in this way, it still falls short of revelation; nature 
is not sufficient to attain all that God bestows. 1 The 
Cambridge Platonists are as careful to emphasize the 
limitations of that which nature through our reason 
reveals to us of God and our duties toward Him as they 
are to magnify the dignity and importance" of the natural 
light, which is also divine, that shines in the soul of 
every man. 

In full agreement with the rational theologians and 
the Cambridge Platonists, Boyle, who was really a 
theologian and a philosopher as well as a scientist, 
recognizes natural religion, which "as it is the first that 
is embraced by the mind, so it is the foundation upon 
which revealed religion ought to be superstructed, and is 
as it were the stock upon which Christianity must be 
grafted. For, though I readily acknowledge natural 
religion to be insufficient, yet I think it very necessary." 2 
Boyle s estimate of natural religion might well be taken 
as representative of all the progressive thinkers of the 
more conservative tendency, whether from the camp 
of the philosophers or from the theologians. 

It is evident that at the time when Locke was doing 
most of his writing natural religion was one of the chief 
centers of interest in religious speculation. Apparently 
almost everybody had an opinion concerning it; the 
more conservative men were engaged in setting its 

1 Ibid., p. 70; also Culverwell, The LigJtt of Nature, pp. 267, 272. 

2 Boyle, Works, V, 46, 685. 

122 John Locke and English Deism 

limits and the more liberal, as we shall see later, in 
magnifying its importance. In the preceding chapter we 

{ saw that Locke exalted reason and also recognized the 
importance of nature in accounting for things. He also 
was intensely interested in all matters pertaining to 

, religion; it is really in the background of all his specula 
tions and often appears when least expected. We 
would naturally think that since he treated so many 
problems in philosophy and religion systematically he 
would give us a thorough discussion of natural religion. 

( But though isolated passages in his works show clearly 

j that he recognized it as a fact, he nowhere makes an 
ordered presentation of his views concerning it. His 

: interests in religious problems were focused rather on 
revealed religion and the rationalization of it than on 
that religion which man with his unaided capacity can 
attain. 1 

In discussing the imperfection of words he says: 
"Nor is it to be wondered, that the will of God, when 
clothed in words," should be liable to that uncertainty 
which " attends that sort of conveyance." We should be 
thankful that God by His works and Providence and the 
light of reason has enabled men, who know not His 
special revelations, to know Him and their relation to 

1 Worcester discusses "the comparative practical importance Locke 
assigns to revealed and to what he sometimes calls natural religion. 
One difficulty in the way of such an inquiry lies in the fact that Locke 
nowhere clearly states exactly what he understands by the latter expres 
sion and as all his specifically religious writings lie in the field of Revela 
tion, his conception of a natural religion is preserved in only a few brief 
hints," The Religious Opinions of John Locke (p. 30). Crous also calls 
attention to Locke s failure to discuss natural religion. He makes the 
very important observation that Locke does not enter into a thorough 
presentation of it, "but emphasizes the necessity of the sending of 
Jesus" (p. 106). 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 123 

Him, so that they need not "doubt of the being of God, 
or of the obedience due Him. Since the precepts of 
natural religion are plain and very intelligible to all 
mankind, and seldom come to be controverted"; and 
revealed truths, expressed in language, are liable to the 
"natural obscurities and difficulties incident to words; 
methinks it would become us to be more careful and 
diligent in observing the former, and less magisterial, 
positive, and imperious, in imposing our sense and inter 
pretations of the latter." 1 Here Locke is emphasizing 
the "imperfections of words"; he is not magnifying the 
importance of natural religion. Owing to this imper 
fection, which necessarily attends this way of convey 
ance, it happens that natural religion is not hampered 
by the uncertainty that necessarily attends the use of 
words, because it is mediated through the light of 
reason, while revelation is thus hampered because it is 
conveyed in words. Therefore natural religion has this 
one advantage over revealed religion, its principles are 
not hampered by the uncertainties of words. We are 
not justified, on the basis of this passage, in assuming 
that it has any other advantage; it may have many 

A passage in A Discourse of Miracles, which was 
published posthumously, seems to give great prominence 
to natural religion. He says: " That no mission can be 
looked on to be divine, that delivers anything derogating 
from the honor of the one, only, true, invisible God, or 
inconsistent with natural religion or the rules of morality : 
because God having discovered to men the unity and 
majesty of His eternal Godhead, and the truths of 

1 Essay, III, ix, 23. 

124 John Locke and English Deism 

natural religion and morality by the light of reason, He 
cannot be supposed to back the contrary by revelation; 
for that would be to destroy the evidence and the use of 
reason, without which men cannot be able to distinguish 
divine revelation from diabolical imposture." Locke 
is certain that God gave reason to man, through which 

I he discovers Himself to men as the one true God, and 
certain of man s duties toward Him. We must 
remember that much of this that we know by reason 
concerning God is of the nature of demonstrative 
certainty; and it is really a revelation of God, though 

i through natural means. To set up anything in con 
tradiction to this is to deny reason, and if we do this we 
are helpless; we have no way of distinguishing true 
revelation from that which is false. We should also 
recall in this connection that according to Locke faith 
is a persuasion short of knowledge. We may conclude 
from this passage that reason and the religion of reason 
or natural religion, so far as it goes, cannot be contra 
dicted by other revelation. But we cannot conclude 
anything concerning the adequacy of natural religion. 

If there is such a thing as natural religion, if man by 
the exercise of his reason can know the one true God and 
his duty toward Him, the question arises as to what 
place there is left for a supernatural revelation. We 
find Locke s answer to this in the Reasonableness of 
/* Christianity in his discussion of the faith of those who, 

because they lived before Christ or in a place where 
knowledge of Him had not come, did not have an 
opportunity to accept Jesus as the Messiah. 1 "Nobody 

1 The closing portion of the Reasonableness of Christianity, Works, 
VII, 128 to end. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 125 

was, or can be, required to believe what was never 
proposed to him to believe." God requires from every 
man according to what he hath, and he who makes use 
of the candle of the Lord will be sure to find the way to 

But though the works of nature and man s reason 
show the way to God, man failed to know Him as he 
should. Several Greeks grasped the truth, but it was 
not communicated to the mass of mankind. Only the 
few have knowledge of the one true God. Christ came, 
and threw down the wall of partition, and showed that 
the knowledge of God was for all mankind. Further 
more, man lacked a clear knowledge of duty. "He 
that shall collect all the moral rules of the philosophers, 
and compare them with those contained in the New 
Testament, will find them to come short of the morality 
delivered by our Savior, and taught by His Apostles." 
And even if such a collection from ancient thinkers were 
made, and even if it equalled that taught by Christ, it 
would be entirely without authority. In Christ, who 
was sent by God, morality has a pure standard which \ 
revelation vouches. 

Though Locke does not wish to minimize in any way 
the importance of reason, he finds himself compelled, by 
the religious and moral conditions that prevail and have 
prevailed, to admit that reason has not sufficed in matters 
of religion and morality. It seems that theoretically 
reason is capable of much more than it actually accom 
plishes, owing to the darkening influence of vice and the 
passions of men. We have seen already that he holds t 
that revelation can and does give us that which is above 
reason, though not contrary to it. 

126 John Locke and English Deism 

Taking this lengthy discussion of the value to man 
of God s revelation in Christ, which Locke published in 
1695 when he was still in the period of his greatest 
intellectual activity, as the standard for interrupting 
the short passage from A Discourse on Miracles, which 
he wrote the year before his death, and which was not 
published by him, we conclude that Locke recognized 
natural religion as a fact, that he magnified the impor 
tance of reason as that which certifies to revelation and 
which revelation cannot contradict, and that he empha 
sizes the limitations of the religion and morals which 
unaided reason can give. Natural religion for Locke 
is a norm for testing revelation only so far as concerns 
that which contradicts reason; revealed religion may 
and does contain elements that are above reason. He 
emphasizes the imperfections and limitations of all 
religions, save that which has God s special revelation 
as contained in the Bible. To interpret these passages 
in such a way as to represent Locke as making natural 
religion the sole standard for judging of all religion would 
be contrary to his entire spirit, and could not be harmon 
ized with the limitations that he has set to reason nor the 
importance that he assigns to revelation. 

c) The Deists. But when we come to the Deists, we 
find a very different attitude toward natural religion. 
Herbert of Cherbury, their earliest representative, shows 
the spirit that dominated the movement when it was at 
its height. Scripture is very uncertain; for if there was 
a supernatural revelation it had authority only for him 
who first received it; for all others it is but tradition and 
can never be more than probable. But we find a sure 
foundation for religion in our common notions, which 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 127 

we have from our natural instinct; and that which we 
have through natural instinct cannot be doubted. 
Among these common notions are the five articles of his 
universal religion. They are sure; they give us some 
thing definite by which we can judge all dogmas of 
religion. He does not deny revelation, but since any 
knowledge that we may have of it is so uncertain, and 
since these five catholic articles cannot be doubted, they 
should be supreme. Natural religion, which unaided 
reason can discover, is sufficient. Of course we must 
remember that with Herbert natural is almost synony 
mous with divine. 1 

Though Blount at times emphasizes the importance 
of revelation, as we have seen in treating that subject, 
he believes his five articles of natural religion, which 
are essentially the same as those of Herbert, are suffi 
cient, and that what goes beyond them is likely to bring 
bad results because it is so uncertain. Common reason 
is our sure foundation in matters of religion; all faiths 
have been shaken save those which are founded on it. 2 

1 Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Herbert"; W. R. Sorley, Mind 
(1894), p. 492; Lechler, Geschichte des englischen Deismus, pp. 42 ff. 

3 Religio Laid, pp. 81-91. In the Oracles of Reason, the letter to 
Blount from A. W. on pp. 197 ff. discusses "natural religion as opposed 
to divine religion" and concludes that revelation cannot be a necessary 
supplement to natural religion, because the latter is the only general 
means of happiness that is proposed; it must therefore provide man with 
everything that is necessary for his spiritual well-being. The entire 
letter is aggressively hostile to the supernatural elements in religion. 
See note under section on "Revelation" in this chapter. There were 
evidently a number of less prominent deistic authors, whose writings 
have not survived, or at least have not drawn the attention of the 
students of this period. From the limited information concerning them 
that we have, we are justified in concluding that they were more hostile 
to Christianity than Toland, or Collins, or even Blount. Their criticisms 

128 John Locke and English Deism 

Toland has little to say about natural religion, but 
he recognizes it. And his denial that revelation can 
give us anything above reason increases its normative 
authority as over against positive religion. He quotes 
Whichcote as saying that "natural religion is eleven 
parts in twelve of all religions"; but he adds that one 
main design of Christianity was to improve and perfect 
the knowledge of the law of nature. 1 Toland in Chris 
tianity Not Mysterious evidently wants to hold to 
Christianity in its orthodox form, or at least he wishes 
to appear to do so; he also wants to be distinguished 
from the Deists. But in Nazarenus, which appeared 
twenty-two years later, he is much more radical in his 
attitude toward revelation; the spirit of the book is 
more hostile toward traditional Christianity than any 
thing that he had written. 

Collins, strictly speaking, does not discuss natural 
religion, but he emphasizes "natural light" and sets 
natural duty over against revealed religion in such a way 
as to show plainly the great importance that he attaches 
to it. 2 

As we would naturally expect, Tindal gives a radical 
interpretation of the relation of natural and revealed 

seem to have anticipated almost all of the characteristic opinions of the 
later and more radical Deism. However, it may be that Toland was 
more radical in his views than he gave himself out to be; in reading his 
books one is likely to suspect insincerity. 

1 Nazarenus, pp. 67 ff . 

3 A Discourse of Freethinking, p. 173. He quotes Tillotson, whom he 
appeals to frequently (p. 1 74) . Collins uses the central thesis of his book 
very loosely. Bentley is justified in criticizing severely his "perpetual 
juggle" about his term of art, freethinking, Remarks upon a Late Dis 
course of Free-thinking (London, 1713), p. 65. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 129 

religion. His great deistical work, Christianity as Old 
as Creation, may be considered a discussion of the thesis, 
"natural and revealed religion differ in nothing." From 
the beginning God must have given men such rules of 
conduct as would guide them in doing that which is 
acceptable to Him, and "external revelation" can do no 
more. And if God gave man a religion from the begin 
ning, was that religion perfect or imperfect ? Certainly 
it was absolutely perfect, which means that it could 
admit of no change either by addition or diminution. 
Natural and revealed religion differ only as to the means 
whereby they are communicated. 1 The thesis of the 
sixth chapter is, "that the religion of nature is an abso 
lutely perfect religion; and that external revelation can 
neither add to, nor take from its perfection; and that 
true religion whether internally or externally revealed 
must be the same." Assuming that the agreement of 
natural and revealed religion is an accepted fact, a 
further question arises: Which one is normativej when 
there is a difference between natural^ and_ revealed 
religion, which one should be followed ? Consistent 
with his radical rationalism, Tindal holds that the *n 
religion of reason is always supreme. The law of jiature ./w*- 
is the standard of perfection, and by it we must*, ^f*** 
judge antecedent to all traditional religion what is or i 
not proper and worthy of God. 2 "Could we suppose 
any difference between natural and traditional religion, 
to prefer the latter would be acting irrationally," 3 for 

1 Christianity as Old as Creation, pp. 3-6. The gospel was not to add 
to natural religion which man had from the beginning, but to free man 
from the load of superstition (p. 8, also p. 79). 

2 Ibid., p. 59, also pp. 164, 178. 3 Ibid., p. 328. 

130 John Locke and English Deism 

religion is blemished by that which is added to it beyond 
what natural religion offers; thus superstitions came in. 1 
According to Tindal, Deism really consists in judging 
revelation by natural religion; its very essence is hos 
tility, in some form, to revelation. 2 

For Wollaston religion is but an ethical system on a 
theistic background. He has nothing to say concern 
ing the relative importance of natural and revealed 
religion. Natural religion exists in the sense of a moral 
duty. There is a law of nature that must be followed, 
and doing so is religion. He speculates in the spirit of 
Tindal and has nothing to add to the discussion of this 
point. 3 

Bolingbroke, though probably attaching more impor 
tance to revelation, occupies practically the same posi 
tion as Tindal. He holds that to think that man is 
unable "to attain a full knowledge of natural theology 
and religion without revelation" dishonors man; revela 
tion can add nothing to reason. 4 

Morgan, though more conservative than Tindal and 
Wollaston in some respects, is probably the most radical 
deistic writer in discussing the relative importance of 
natural and revealed religion. Natural religion is the 
sure and certain religion; if you exclude it you have no 

1 Christianity as Old as Creation, pp. 85 ff. and 141 ff. 

Ibid., pp. 368, 369. 

3 The Religion of Nature Delineated, pp. 2, 4, 41. 

* Bolingbroke, Works, VI, 41, 171, 172, 282, 288 ff. Yet he admits, 
apparently inconsistently, that "there are many doctrines which reason 
would never have taught, nor is able to comprehend, now they are 
taught." This "cannot be denied" (p. 356). But the whole tenor of 
his writings runs in the other direction. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 131 

religion left. 1 "Revealed religion" is built upon tradi 
tion and human authority, and this "clerical or 
sacerdotal Christianity or revealed religion consists in 
the belief of doctrines which cannot be understood." 2 
Natural religion is clear and sure and is the standard 
for all religions. Neither Chubb nor Woolston added 
anything to this discussion. 

For the Deists natural religion has an increasingly 
honorable and important position. It is not only a 
genuine religion, but for most of the leaders from 
Herbert on it is the only sure religion that is free from 
the mysteries, uncertainties, and confusion that weaken 
the claims of positive Christianity. Hence the religious 
truths and principles that unaided reason can discover, 
or that God reveals to man through reason, are made the 
standard for testing all revelation. If supernatural 
revelation is acknowledged at all, it is of less value than 
the principles of natural religion, either because that 
which was revealed could have authority only for him 
who first received it, for to all others it was but tradi 
tion, or because revelation could not give man anything 
that was above his reason or beyond its reach. Or, 
expressing it differently, the Deists emphasized the 
importance and normative authority of natural religion 
and the limitations of revealed religion. 3 

Locke and others that we have studied also recog 
nized the importance of natural religion, but they 
emphasized its limitation, its insufficiency. They sought 

1 The Moral Philosopher, I, 346, 434. 

2 Ibid., Preface, also pp. 94, 117. 

3 "Accordingly Deism is essentially an elevation of natural religion, 
supported by free examination, to the norm and rule of all positive 
religion" (Lechler, Geschichte des englischen Deismus, p. 460). 

132 John Locke and English Deism 

to show that it must be supplemented and that it 
actually is supplemented by revelation, which brings to 
man that which unaided reason could not attain. "The 
religion of the Gospel is the true original religion of 
reason and nature." To this the Deists would readily 
assent. But Sherlock and others, including Locke, 
would add: "It is so in part; it is all that and more." 1 
That which is postulated over and above natural 
religion distinguishes the liberal non-deistical writers 
from the Deists. Revelation was not only a historical 
fact, as most of the Deists taught, but it actually brought 
to man something that unaided reason could never have 
attained. And that which it conveyed to man was of 
importance for his religious life. 2 

1 Sherlock, Discourses Preached on Several Occasions, V, 134,* 142. 
Preaching before the king in June of 1700, he denned Deism. It is "to 
believe a God and to deny all revealed religion" (I, 256). 

2 After setting forth the rationalistic motive in the theological 
speculations of all the parties of this period, Mark Pattison says: 
"According to this assumption, a man s religious belief is a result which 
issues at the end of an intellectual process. In arranging the steps of 
this process, they conceive natural religion to form the first stage of the 
journey. That stage theologians of all parties and shades travel in 
company. It was only when they had reached the end of it that the 
Deists and Christian apologists parted. The former found that the 
light of reason which had guided them so far indicated no road beyond. 
The Christian writers declared that the same natural powers enabled 
them to recognize the truth of revealed religion. The sufficiency of 
natural religion thus became the turning point of the dispute. The 
natural law of right and duty, argues the Deists, is so absolutely perfect 
that God could not add anything to it." The "Christian defenders 
.... never demur to making the natural the basis on which the 

Christian rests Christianity is a resume of the knowledge of God 

already attained by reason, and a disclosure of further truths. These 
further truths could not have been thought out by reason; but when 
divinely communicated, they approve themselves to the same reason" 
(Essays and Reviews, pp. 269 ff .) . 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 133 


Another significant point of dispute in the deistic 
controversy concerning religion is the definition of it 
largely or exclusively in terms of morality. Is religion 
mere morality, or is it something more ? This is closely ] 
associated with and in a sense grows out of the problem * 
of the relation of natural and revealed religion; in fact 
it might almost be considered a part of it. Men were 
convinced that unaided reason could know that there 
is a God, and that man has certain duties toward Him 
and toward his fellow-men, and that the performance of 
these duties brought divine approval and the neglect of 
them divine displeasure. Man s welfare here and here 
after depended upon knowing and doing his duty. It 
was a legalistic age; religion consisted in obeying the* 
divine laws, and these were revealed to unaided reason.! 
If there were "mysteries" in religion they were of less 
importance, for God had given them to only a few. 
From these premises it was easy to conclude that 
religion should be defined wholly or almost wholly in 
terms of morality. And as a rule speculation in the 
philosophy of religion was likely to do this just in the 
degree in which natural religion was given a normative 
authority over positive religion. The more radically 
men asserted the supremacy of reason in all matters of 
religion, the more they challenged the "mysteries" in^ 
revelation and magnified the ethical at the expense of the 
supernatural. As the supernatural waned in radical 
Deism, the ethical grew in importance, until religion was 
but a moral system on a theistic background. 

Among the rational theologians we have no trace 
of this tendency to minimize the supernatural. Though 

134 John Locke and English Deism 

they emphasized nature and reason in their speculations 
concerning religion, they were always careful to show the 
limitations of the natural and the necessity of the super 
natural. It is true that they conceived religion legal- 
istically, after the manner of the times. 1 For Hooker 
revelation was primarily for directing action, the notion 
of law and duty was very prominent. And his suc 
cessors held the same view : they emphasized the ethical 
factor in religion, and, with others, they probably 
helped to prepare the way for the more radical deistic 
writers who conceived religion in terms of an ethical 

Among the Cambridge Platonists the moral element 
in religion is emphasized still more. Whichcote saw but 
two things in religion morals and institutions and 
morals are nineteen parts out of twenty of all religion. 2 
Cudworth agreed with him. "The Cambridge Divines 
.... gave their chief interest and study to the moral 
side of Christianity and the divine power which it 
reveals in the life and sacrifice of divine love." 3 They 
emphasize the ethical element in religion more than any 
other writers outside of the rank of the Deists, but they 
never resolve religion wholely into terms of morality. 
In their systems revelation was always considered a 
necessary supplement to that which is mediated through 

1 That in this period religion was conceived legalistically in England 
is seen in much of the theological literature, but it is not so clear just 
whence this tendency came. It may be due to the Calvinistic type of 
theology and perhaps also in part to the influence of Socinianism, both 
of which emphasized legalism. 

2 Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy, II, 107. 

3 Ibid., p. 235. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 135 

Locke, like his predecessors and contemporaries, 
conceived religion largely from the legalistic point of 
view. In the opening pages of the Reasonableness of 
Christianity, Christ s redemption is made to consist in 
restoring what Adam lost by setting up the new law of 
faith, "which is allowed to supply the defect of full 
obedience," in lieu of the law of works which had been 
delivered to the Jews, which was, "Do this and live, 
transgress and die." Man could not yield perfect 
obedience, but faith can take its place; thus the immor 
tality lost in Adam s fall is regained. But the moral 
elements of the law still hold. This faith was believing 
that Jesus was the promised Messiah; but in order to 
avail for salvation it must be accompanied by repentance. 
"Faith .... and a new life are the conditions of the 
new covenant." The law of works was too hard for 
man perfect obedience, which it required, was all but 
impossible; hence Christ came with a new law, which is 
the law of faith; in this sense Christ is represented as a 
new lawgiver. 1 But the faith element, accepting as 
true what God wishes us to believe, is a necessary part 
of our obedience toward God. The great emphasis that 
Locke lays on faith and repentance makes the legalism in 
his conception of Christianity perhaps more apparent 
than real. 2 

Certain students of Locke s writings are disposed 
to interpret some of his statements concerning the place 

1 The whole doctrinal background in which this appears is well 
worked out by Worcester in the third chapter of The Religious Opinions of 
John Locke. Though interesting and instructive, it does not bear directly 
on this problem except in so far as it has been presented in very brief 

2 Reasonableness of Christianity, Works, VII, the opening pages 
and pp. 128 ff. 

136 John Locke and English Deism 

morality should have in worship as proving that he is of 
the school of Herbert of Cherbury. In speaking of 
toleration Locke says: "A good life, in which consists 
not the least part of religion and true piety concerns also 
the civil government." 1 And in the opening pages of 
his first Letter on Toleration, he states that "the business 
of true religion .... is the regulating of men s lives 
according to the rule of virtue and true piety." This he 
sets over against ecclesiastical pomp and authority. 
But in this same portion of his discussion of toleration, 
he asserts that "faith only, and inward sincerity are the 
things that procure acceptance with God." Morality 
is the outward expression of the inward state. 2 The 
place of morality in religion is also emphasized in 
Sacerdos, which Bourne says was written before 1667 
and was published posthumously. 3 Locke opposed, as 
vigorously as any man, that type of Christianity which 
magnifies the forms of righteousness and the pomp of 
outward worship; in doing this he emphasized the 
virtuous and pious life; the Christianity that does not 
regulate action and result in holiness of life is not 
genuine. But he is never in danger of making religion 
and morality synonymous. 4 On all essential points in 

1 Locke, Works, VI, 41. 

* Ibid., VI, 28. 

3 L. King, Life of John Locke (London, 1830), II, 84 ff. 

* In the closing pages of The Reasonableness of Christianity, he gives 
reasons why Christ came to bring God s revelation to man. Among 
other advantages that we have through His coming is a clear and 
authoritative moral standard, for "a clear knowledge of their duty was 
wanting to mankind." 

It was too hard a task for reason to establish morality in all its parts. 
The best that the philosophers discovered fell far short of the rules of 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 137 

the definition of religion he probably agreed with the 
more progressive leaders of his day in the Church of 
England. He was legalistic in his conception of religion, 
after the fashion of that period, and he emphasized, to a 
limited extent, the ethical factors in religion; but in this 
he does not go as far as Whichcote and Cud worth. 

In the deistic movement, especially when it was at 
its height, a different spirit prevailed. In the very 
beginning Herbert laid the foundation in his philosophy 
of religion for resolving all religions into morality. His 
universal principles were so sure, and a revelation that 
was mediated through tradition was so uncertain, that, 
as has been stated, his five articles were made normative 
for all religion. 1 The central element in religious life, 
according to Herbert, is worshiping by moral and pious 
living. Man also knows that he ought to repent for 
sins; this is one of the "common notions." But he 
would not know sin were it not for the moral law, in 
obeying which he worships God. Thus for Herbert the 
ethical factor in the religious life was all-important. 

the New Testament. And even if they could have found out their full 
duty, it would have lacked authority. But this is just one of the advan 
tages that men have through Christ. He brought the new covenant and 
now man can have salvation through the law of faith instead of through 
the law of works, and faith believes what God would have us believe and 
that is that Jesus is the Messiah. 

The statements by Crous on pp. 85 and 109 are misleading. On a 
small foundation, and by emphasizing what Locke mentioned only 
incidentally, he succeeds in putting him within the deistic movement. 
By a like process of reasoning he could make many others Deists. 

1 These five catholic articles are: There is a God; He ought to be 
worshipped; Virtue and piety are the chief parts of worship; Sin 
must be atoned for by repentance; Punishment and rewards follow this 

138 John Locke and English Deism 

Religion became little more than an ethical system in 
which the theological background was emphasized. 

It is probable that Blount s position resembled closely 
that of Herbert, whose five articles greatly influenced 
him. He nowhere says outright that religion is morality, 
but the general tenor of Religio Laid is to magnify the 
ethical at the expense of the supernatural. 1 Though 
Toland seldom mentions the ethical factor in religion, it 
has considerable importance for him. But there is no 
effort to reduce religion to a system of morals. 2 

Tindal is the first one of the more prominent Deists 
to give us a complete statement of the relation of morals 
and religion. He is as radical here as elsewhere. 
According to Tindal religion consists "in the practice of 
morality in obedience to the will of God." The differ 
ence between morality and religion is this: morality is 
"acting according to the reason of things considered in 
themselves," while religion is "acting according to the 
same reason of things considered as the will of God." 3 
Natural religion, which is about the only kind of religion 
that Tindal recognizes, is but an ethical system on a 
theistic background; it consists in observing the rules 

1 The letter from A. W. to Blount that was published in Oracles of 
Reason is much more radical than Blount. The writer identifies the 
rules of natural religion, which is about the only religion that he recog 
nizes, with morality. He says the practice of obedience "to the rules 
of right reason " is " moral virtue " .... is "natural religion." 

3 The next year after the appearance of Christianity Not Mysterious 
(i.e., in 1697) Willis in Occasional Papers, p. 17, objected to the deistic 
foundation of ethics and expressed the conviction that we had better 
ground our morals on revelation than on the deistic principle laid down 
by reason. Collins is silent on the subject. See also Nazarenus, p. 67, 
and A Collection of Several Pieces, II, 121, 130, 138 ff. 

3 Christianity as Old as Creation, p. 192. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 139 

that reason discovers. And anything added to this is 
a blemish. 1 The whole of religion, according to the 
Deists, consists in performing all the duties of morality. 2 

For Wollaston religion is "nothing else but an 
obligation to do what ought not to be omitted, and to 
forbear what ought not to be done." If there is moral 
obligation, there is natural religion. The foundation of 
religion lies in the difference between the good and evil 
acts of men. 3 The whole of The Religion of Nature 
Delineated is but a theistic moral system, in which the 
naturalistic factor is emphasized, but the theistic founda 
tion is never lost sight of. 

Morgan agrees with Tindal and Wollaston; he says 
the same thing in different words. "By Christianity, 
I mean that complete system of moral truth and right 
eousness, justice and charity, which, as the best tran 
script of the religion of nature, was preached to the 
world by Christ and the Apostles." Morgan holds that 
natural religion consists of eternal and immutable 
principles of moral truth. 4 

Deism, in its beginning and at the time of its greatest 
influence, so emphasized the ethical factor in religion 
that it almost eclipsed the supernatural. After the 
manner of the times the Deists conceived religion 
legalistically. It consisted largely, perhaps almost 
entirely, in obeying certain laws. The legalistic way 

1 Ibid., pp. 13 ff., 141. 

2 Ibid., p. 366. Just at this time (1731) John Balguy in A Second 
Letter to a Deist (London, 1731) said that Deism is more than merely 
being governed by the obligations of moral fitness (p. 64). 

3 The Religion of Nature Delineated, pp. 4, 41. . 

4 The Moral Philosopher, I, 94, 439. 

140 John Locke and English Deism 

of viewing religion, which prevailed everywhere, when 
united with the more radical rationalism and naturalism 
of the deistic movement, resulted in conceiving religion 
almost entirely in terms of ethics. Practically every 
serious thinker on religious problems would say that the 
religious life is a moral life ; but few, if any, beyond the 
camp of the Deists would say that the moral life is 
always a religious life; or, as several of the Deists put it, 
that Socrates was a Christian. The essential element in 
natural religion is obeying rules that reason can discover; 
and natural religion is the standard for judging all 
religion. It may be that this tendency in Deism is but 
the doctrine of Cud worth further developed. Some of 
them speak of ethics in the language of Cambridge. 
But they do not accept the objectivity of the distinction 
between right and wrong as a point of departure from 
which to begin their discussions of religion or morals, 
as do the Cambridge Platonists. It is rather the spirit 
of Herbert that speaks in the more radical later Deism. 
Virtue and piety are the chief parts of worship, according 
to his fundamental principles of universal religion; and 
man knows this religion of nature by his unaided reason. 
Tindal and Wollaston and Morgan emphasized natural 
religion, which they practically or actually identified 
with morality, and made it the norm for testing all 
religion. Though their systems remained theistic, the 
supernatural was reduced to a minimum. 

Locke clearly stands outside of this line of develop 
ment. It is true that he emphasized the moral side of 
Christianity.- But in doing so he contrasted it with the 
empty ecclesiastical forms and pomp that were notori 
ously barren of holiness of life. When the Deists 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 141 

emphasized the ethical elements in Christianity or in 
natural religion, they contrasted them with the super 
natural. Though they sometimes use the same language, 
they do not say the same thing. The supernatural 
relations and sanctions of the religious life occupy a 
much more important place in Locke s system than in 


A full discussion of toleration in England of the 
seventeenth and eighteenth centuries would be a 
history of Nonconformity. For our purpose it will be 
sufficient to make only a general survey of the period. 

We must remember that not all preachers of tolera 
tion were tolerant. One need but read Bourne s account 
of events at Oxford, just before and during the time of 
Locke s student days, to realize how often the advocates 
of toleration forgot their exalted principles when they 
had the power to coerce others. 1 With some individual 
exceptions toleration was never the creed of the party in 
power; it was generally the cry for justice of a party 
that was oppressed. However there were some leaders, 
we may say there were certain groups of leaders, who 
advocated it. 

The spirit of the whole rationalistic movement in 
theology and related interests tended toward toleration. 
As we have seen, it fostered free inquiry; a corollary of 
this is toleration of resulting divergent opinions. If a 
man is to think for himself in religious matters, he must 
be free to think, he must have the privilege of holding his 
opinions unmolested by others. 2 This was the teaching 

1 Bourne, Life of John Locke, I, chaps, ii, iii. 

2 Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy, I, isSff., 1642. 

142 John Locke and English Deism 

of Faulkland and Hales. Chillingworth held that the 
Apostles Creed contained all the great principles of 
religion, and on these all men were agreed; hence the 
Protestants were divided not on matters of faith, but 
on minor matters of speculation. 1 He grasped the 
meaning of Protestantism and saw the real sense of 
"agreeing to differ." In this same class stands Jeremy 
Taylor s defense of The Liberty of Prophesying. It was 
probably the greatest plea of that century for the 
"liberty of Christian teaching within the Church." 
And in like spirit Stillingfleet wrote The Irenicum of a 
Comprehensive Church, though he modified his opinions 
later. Both Taylor and Stillingfleet set up broad and 
comprehensive principles as the ideal. 2 The Christian 
religion is a religion of peace and tolerance. The church 
has no right to require more than Christ Himself asked. 
There is no reason that can be given why the things that 
are necessary for salvation, as laid down by our Savior 
in His words, are not enough for membership in any 
church body. Unfortunately the Restoration was 
dominated by another and a very different spirit. 

Contemporary with this movement, or perhaps a 
little later, the group of leaders at Cambridge exerted 
an influence for toleration. In some respects they 
strongly resembled the rational theologians, and yet 
they differed from them. Hales, Chillingworth, and 
Taylor, as we have seen, distinguished fundamental and 
nonfundamental, and advocated comprehension of sects 
by the Church of England on the basis of the funda- 

1 Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy, I, pp. 325, 
33 5 > 341-43- 

* Ibid., pp. 344 ff., 411 ff. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 143 

mental articles of faith. Their interests centered in 
church polity; they would so modify the conditions of 
membership in the state church that it would "compre 
hend" all sects; their problem concerned the practical 
administration of the affairs of the church. The 
Cambridge divines, on the other hand, turned their 
attention to interests that were more profound; they 
discussed the nature of religion and raised critical ques 
tions in the spirit of the new speculation questions 
which touched "the very essence of religious and moral 
principles." They attempted on philosophical grounds 
to say to just what extent men had a right to be dogmatic 
and to insist on a certain standard of orthodoxy. 
Though they came to practically the same views as 
Chillingworth and others concerning toleration, they 
reached their conclusions by a different way. It was 
religious philosophy rather than ecclesiastical polity that 
concerned them. 1 

Among these Cambridge divines, Whichcote con 
ceived the essence and character of true religion in such 
a way that he could not understand how regenerate men, 
who agree on the great articles of faith and principles 
of a good life, could not overlook subordinate differences. 2 
And Smith, Cudworth, and More were of the same 
opinion. In the midst of the warring sects they sought 
to grasp a nobler religious ideal which was common to all 
Christians. Freedom of conscience in all religious 
matters was sacred. Hence all true religion must be 
tolerant. The reason enlightened by revelation is a 
sufficient guide. The fundamentals were sufficient as a 
basis for church unity; it was unreasonable and against 

1 Ibid., II, i ff. " Ibid., pp. ioi ff. 

144 John Locke and English Deism 

the real spirit of Christianity to demand uniformity of 
belief in that which is not central in religion. Man 
has no right to demand acceptance of more than Christ 
and the Apostles required. Because of their broad 
views they were soon known as "the latitude men." 
Cambridge Platonism became the center around which 
developed the latitudinarian movement. But this was a 
new message that the rational theologians and the Cam 
bridge Platonists brought. It did not fit the prevailing 
conception; men were still too prone to define religious 
faith in terms of the acceptance of sectarian dogmas. 
Their counsel was rejected by both Anglican and Puritan. 
Somewhat separate from these liberal theologians of 
the established church, and also apart from the Platon 
ists at Cambridge, stood Milton, "the great interpreter 
of the Commonwealth." Though he was close to the 
Cambridge divines in many things for they were of the 
Puritans 1 he did not share their philosophical specula 
tions. He approached toleration rather from the 
political or practical side. He wrote a Treatise of Chris 
tian Liberty in Ecclesiastical Causes, Showing That It 
Is Not Lawful for Any Person on Earth to Compel in 
Matters of Religion, and also a book on True Religion, 
Heresie, Schism, and Toleration. In the latter, which 
appeared at a time when it was dangerous to utter such 
views, he taught toleration for every religious opinion 
except idolatry, which is impiety, and popery, which is 
rather a political than a religious party. 2 Many of the 
greatest advocates of toleration, including Locke, 
excepted atheists and Romanists for these reasons. In 

1 Tulloch, Rational Theology and Christian Philosophy, I, p. 7. 

2 Ibid., English Puritanism and Its Leaders, pp. 239 ff. 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 145 

the period of the Restoration Milton was probably the 
greatest critic of the intolerance that then prevailed. 

Locke saw very early in life the evil results of the 
prevailing intolerance. During his student days at 
Christ Church College men were driven from academic 
chairs for no other reason than that they were of another 
party than that which was in power. Clergymen were 
taken from congregations, some leaders of ecclesiastical 
parties were imprisoned, and in a few instances men suf 
fered harm in person and estate. It is not surprising 
that as a young man, probably less than thirty years 
old, he saw the impossibility of church uniformity in 
doctrine and cultus. It was forced home upon him that 
honest men of religious conviction did not think the same 
on all matters, and that the points on which they differed 
were almost always not of cardinal importance for 
religious faith; they generally concerned doctrinal 
statements that were formulated by man human 
glosses as he expressed it and not the plain truths of 
revelation. In an essay entitled Reflections on the Roman 
Commonwealth, which was written, according to Bourne, 
about 1660, when Locke was twenty-eight years old, he 
presents Numa s principle of toleration in all religious 
matters most sympathetically, and traces schisms and 
heresies to "multiplying articles of faith, and narrowing 
the bottom of religion by clogging it with creeds and 
catechisms and endless niceties." He also sets limits to 
authority in enforcing uniformity. The Roman state \ / 
is held up as an ideal of religious toleration. 1 About the 
same time, or very soon after, in an unpublished essay, he 
discusses the problem from a somewhat different angle, 

1 Bourne, Life of John Locke, I, 149. 

146 John Locke and English Deism 

with results that seem to suggest an extension of the 
power of the civil magistrates over indifferent things. 1 
During the next seven years his experience in offices of 
state was extensive. He was secretary to the first Earl 
of Shaftesbury. Before 1667 he returned to the problem 
in Sacerdos, in which he shows that coercion in matters 
of religion is unreasonable. 2 And very soon after this he 
wrote his Essay Concerning Toleration, which is a fuller 
and more systematic treatment of the subject. Here, 
in the name of freedom of conscience, he advocates 
toleration for all religious beliefs, save such as contain 
tenets that are hostile to the state or society; hence 
Atheists and Catholics should not be tolerated. 3 In 
1669 he incorporated religious toleration in The Funda 
mental Constitution for the Government of Carolina* He 
touched upon the discussion of tolerance in several other 
writings before he wrote his great work on toleration, 
Epistola de Tolerantia, in the winter of 1685 and 1686. 
It was publiahfidjn 1689, and was the first discussion of 
toleration by Locke that reached the public. This was 
vigorously attacked, and Locke wrote a second letter in 
its defense. 5 

It is very doubtful whether any other topic occupied 
Locke s attention as often as toleration. He returns 
to it again and again, now from one point of view, 

1 Bourne, Life of John Locke, I, p. 154. 
3 Ibid., p. 156. 

3 Ibid., p. 174. 

4 Ibid., pp. 239 ff. 

s Crous gives an excellent digest of Bourne s account of the develop 
ment of Locke s views on toleration with considerable additional matter; 
he also gives a faithful presentation of Locke s arguments and con 
clusions; it is thorough and correct (pp. 51 ff.). 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 147 

now from another. It probably is the determining 
motive of his most important theological treatise, The 
Reasonableness of Christianity. But whether writing a 
pretentious work for publication or a short note or essay 
just to formulate his views, his fundamental principle 
was always the same. Every law-abiding citizen has a 
right to freedom of conscience in religious belief and 
worship, so long as this does not interfere with the rights 
of others. 

A genetic study of the development of Locke s 
teaching concerning toleration would indicate that the 
determining motive is to be found in practical interests. 
An intolerable situation of intersectarian jealousy and 
oppression existed. In the interests of the well-being 
of all parties concerned, both as citizens of the state 
and as members of organized religious bodies, the situa 
tion demanded relief. Very early in life Locke set 
himself to devising a means of escape. He was thus led, 
primarily by the very practical question of church polity 
and the interests of state, in working out his views on 
toleration. In this respect he probably stands in closer 
relation to the rationalistic theologians than to the more 
abstractly philosophical Cambridge Platonists. For 
Locke toleration rose out of a very practical demand; 
it is a way of meeting a given situation, rather than the 
corollary of a theory of religion. His philosophy of 
religion is never wholly lost sight of, but it is not the 
determining and molding factor in his advocacy of 

In the debate concerning toleration Locke s great 
service is that he gave a complete systematic presenta 
tion of his views; it may be said that he summed up the 

148 John Locke and English Deism 

best that had been written on the subject. Further 
more, he uttered his plea in the language of the more 
intelligent middle class, and he supported his position 
with the simple but convincing arguments of common 
sense. Milton reasoned more profoundly, and so did 
the Cambridge Platonists, but Locke, who was not 
burdened by the heavy Miltonic diction or by Platonic 
speculation, reasoned more convincingly for the reading 
public. As a result of this and the more fortunate 
conditions that obtained after 1688 his writings on tolera 
tion exerted a great influence. But he is not strictly a 
pathfinder here. A number of great men had spoken 
of it before him; practically all of the more progressive 
thinkers of the period urged toleration; Locke is just one 
of the most important men of this group. 

The Deists, of course, were among those who wanted 
complete toleration. But, strange as it may seem, they 
had very little to say about it when their movement 
was at its height. From Blount to Chubb it is mentioned 
probably not more than two or three dozen times, and 
nowhere is there a formal discussion of it. These men 
came upon the stage after the great leaders, among whom 
was Locke, had practically won the battle. Hence they 
generally assumed toleration as an acknowledged fact; 
some of them never even mention it. 

For Herbert religious toleration is the corollary of his 
five fundamental principles of all religion; these consti 
tute the core of all true religion; whatever more there 
is in a religious system is uncertain and cannot be con 
sidered essential and binding. Therefore all who 
embrace these principles should be tolerated. Toland 
devotes a few pages to asserting and defending tolera- 

Main Points in Religious Discussions 149 

tion. 1 Collins, Tindal, and Wollaston are silent on the 
subject. Woolston expressly assumes it. 2 Bolingbroke, 
in his vigorous protest against authority, several times 
condemns all forms of coercion in religion, and says that 
persecution is caused, not by the gospel, but by the 
systems that have been raised on it. This is the nearest 
approach to a discussion of toleration among the Deists. 3 
Morgan refers to toleration in a very energetic way 
though briefly. Fundamentals in Christianity have been 
multiplied, with the result that the right of private 
judgment has been ignored. 4 For Chubb the only thing 
necessary for recognition as a Christian were the essential 
facts of the gospel and not men s opinions. Christ is 
man s sole lawgiver; no man has a right to force faith 
or subjection. 5 

Deism, at least in its period of greatest influence, paid 
but little attention to toleration. Conditions had 
changed since the days of the rational theologians and the 
Cambridge Platonists. Toleration was all but an 
accomplished fact, so far as concerned active coercion. 
Certain political disabilities continued for a century or 
more, but there was freedom of conscience to the extent 
that men could believe almost what they pleased in 
religious matters and yet live in peace. Toleration was 
no longer a living issue. 

1 Vindicius Liberius, pp. 107-15. He claims toleration for all save 
the Papists they condemn all others and are under a foreign ruler. He 
believes that without religion civil liberty is impossible. 

2 A Discourse on the Miracles of Our Saviour, pp. 68 ff. 

3 Bolingbroke, Works, VI, 286, 290, 350, 483 ff ., and in Vol. VII the 
orepart of his discussion of "Tolerance." 

4 Tracts, pp. xvi ff., also Physico-Theology, pp. 270 ff. 

s The Gospel of Jesus Christ Asserted, Preface, and pp. 3 ff. 

150 John Locke and English Deism 

The occasional references that the Deists make to it 
are not sufficiently extensive to enable us to know which 
principle determined their thinking on the subject, 
whether they were in the line that came down from the 
rational theologians, or in that which we have from the 
Cambridge Platonists. It is impossible, on the basis of 
their few incidental references to toleration, to determine 
whether they were close to the practical discussion of 
Locke or to the more speculative reasoning of Cambridge. 
But it is clear that toleration is not peculiar to Locke 
or the Deists; it is, however, a distinguishing character 
istic of the more progressive thinkers of the whole period. 
We find it advocated by the Rational Theologians, the 
Cambridge Platonists, Locke, and the Deists; it was a 
doctrine common to many minds. The fact that both 
Locke and the Deists advocated toleration marks them 
as part of one movement, but not necessarily as consti 
tuting the whole of that movement; as we have seen, 
there were many others who held the same opinions. 
When the new order came after 1688, Locke, by his 
vigorous and plain appeal for toleration, became the 
leader of all those who advocated it, of whom a minority 
were Deists. He did not become the leader of the 
Deists, as Crous asserts. 1 

1 Since toleration was not a point of dispute with Deism, it should 
not be discussed here if we were to adhere strictly to the principle that 
has guided in the selection of the topics that have been developed in this 
chapter. But Crous used it to prove Locke s identity with the deistic 
movement; hence this cursory account has been given of such portions 
of the debate on Nonconformity as were relevant. 



Locke s influence dominated the period when Deism 
was most productive. The extent of this influence, as 
seen in quotations from Locke and direct references to 
him in the deistic writings, should therefore be investi 
gated. It will appear that some of the Deists seemed 
to be wholly independent of Locke, while others were 
influenced by him, but in a way that is not significant, 
and that at least Bolingbroke appreciated the difference 
between the religious opinions of Locke and those of 
the Deists. 


Spinoza and Locke were born in the same year, 1632. 
Spinoza died in 1677 while Locke was traveling in France. 
Had Locke died at that time his name might have been 
preserved as the friend of Sydenham, or as the secretary 
of the first Earl of Shaftesbury and tutor to his son. He 
was recognized as a genial "student" at Christ Church, 
Oxford, of scholarly tastes and more than average 
ability; he had many friends, among whom were some of 
the most prominent men of the time; but he was com 
paratively unknown, he had done nothing to attract 
the attention of the public. Locke at fifty was a scho 
larly English gentleman, who, as he said when speaking 
of his unjust expulsion from Oxford in 1684, "had lived 

152 John Locke and English Deism 

inoffensively in the College for many years." 1 He suf 
fered this expulsion, not so much from anything that he 
had done that called forth royal disfavor, as because 
of his association with Shaftesbury, whose political sun 
had set. 

But just as England after 1688 was another England, 
so Locke after his return from Holland in 1689 was 
another Locke. It is probable that 1686 marks the 
literary turning-point in his life. 2 Before that he was 
the modest, retiring student; after that he was the author 
of books that marked epochs. Almost contemporary 
with his arrival in England appeared A Letter Concerning 
Toleration; it was both a plea and a challenge. In the 
letter "to the Reader" he says, "absolute liberty, just 
and true liberty, equal and impartial liberty, is the thing 
we stand in need of. Now, though this has been much 
talked of, I doubt it has not been much understood 
I am sure not at all practiced." We are not surprised 
that he at once drew the fire of the apologists of the old 
idea of uniformity. His book was vigorously attacked 
and stoutly defended. And while the debate was still 
on, his Essay Concerning the Human Understanding came 
from the press, and English Empiricism started on its 
course. That same year he published two Treatises of 
Government and a second Letter Concerning Toleration, 
After this England knew John Locke. He at once 
became influential in political affairs; he was a counselor 
of ministers and statesmen. His political philosophy 
more and more shaped the political ideas of the new 
England of William and Mary. 
1 Bourne, Life of John Locke, I, 484. 
1 Ibid., II, 45- 

Direct Evidence 153 

When the Essay Concerning the Human Understand 
ing appeared, England was without a philosopher. 
Hobbes had died in ill repute. Rightly or wrongly 
many held his materialistic philosophy responsible for 
the low morals of the Restoration. 1 Furthermore, the 
Baconian program had been gaining rapidly, especially 
since the founding of the Royal Society. The new 
science, which relied on experiment rather than on 
deductive speculation,"was now well established and had 
vindicated itself by its results. England was ready for 
an empirical system of philosophy; and there were 
probably other factors in the general situation that 
helped to account for the influence that the Essay soon 
exerted. Within eleven years after its first appearance 
it had passed through four English editions and had 
appeared in a Latin version and also in French. As 
most epoch-marking books, it was much criticized. It 
had also its great defenders. For various reasons, many 
of which were not philosophical, it had probably more 
foes than friends; but among its friends were many of 
the greatest men of the time. But whether praised or 
blamed, it was the philosophy that was most discussed, 
and its author was generally recognized as the greatest 
living philosopher. 


Attention has already been called to the fact that 
Locke and the Deists were close to each other in time. 
He was a boy of sixteen at Westminster when Herbert 
died; he was an unobtrusive "student" of Christ Church 
when Stillingfleet wrote his Letter to a Deist; he was in 

1 T. B. Macaulay, History of England (London, 1849), I, chap. ii. 

154 John Locke and English Deism 

his fifties when Blount was publishing his deistic writings, 
and in his sixties when Toland s Christianity Not Mys 
terious appeared. When he died in 1704, Collins was a 
young man of twenty-eight, Tindal was forty-seven, 
Wollaston, forty-five, Woolston, thirty-five, Boling- 
broke, twenty-six, Chubb, twenty-five, and Morgan was 
about the same age. Locke s period of greatest activity 
began with his return to England early in 1689. And 
Lockian thought influenced many, perhaps most, of the 
progressive thinkers for some time after his death. With 
the exception of Herbert and Blount, all the more 
prominent Deists wrote during the period of Locke s 
greatest influence. At least Toland and Collins were 
personallyjmown to him. Thus the deistic movement, 
which had its beginnings early in the century, but did not 
develop much strength until the last decade of the 
century, and did not reach its period of greatest influence 
until after Locke s death, covered the entire span of his 
life and extended nearly half a century beyond. How 
ever, the most important deistic writings and the most 
vigorous part of the deistic controversy came after his 
death; generally speaking, almost all the later deistic 
literature was produced in the period when Locke was the 
leading influence in English philosophy. He was 
progressive, rationalistic, and critical; so were they. 
You would expect to find the shadow of the Essay 
over the literature of Deism. 


It is not easy to determine when and to what extent 
one writer influences another. There are several sorts 
of evidence, but no one kind of evidence can be taken 

Direct Evidence 155 

alone; it must be taken with others; and, as we saw in 
the study of method for this problem, its value must be 
estimated with the whole background before us. But 
the most important factors, from which the influence of 
Locke upon Deism can be determined, have been studied 
in the two preceding chapters, in which we considered the 
use that was made of the concepts of nature and reason, 
which played such an important role in the more progres 
sive thinking of the age, and the conclusions that were 
reached on certain points that were under discussion. 
We studied critically the resemblances between Locke 
and the Deists; these afford the most important evidence 
of dependence. We found that though there were 
fundamental agreements there were also clearly marked 
differences. The significance of these agreements and 
differences will appear more fully in the concluding 
chapter. There is another important sort of proof of the 
relation of the Deists to Locke. Most of them wrote 
their books and tracts when Locke was the dominant 
figure in English thought, and almost of necessity their 
writings contain evidence of their relation to him and of 
their attitude toward him. We shall examine the books 
of the leading Deists to see what use they made of 
Lockian thought. 

Of course the relation in time makes it impossible 
for Herbert to have been influenced by Locke in any 
way; and Blount, who committed suicide in 1693, 
published practically nothing after the appearance of the 
Essay. His two most significant works, Philostratus 
and Religio Laid, appeared in 1680 and 1683, 
respectively. There is no evidence that Locke was 
influenced by them. He expressly rejects Herbert s 
doctrine of innate ideas. 

156 John Locke and English Deism 


Much has been made of Toland s dependence upon 
Locke. In 1695 Locke published the Reasonableness of 
Christianity, and the next year appeared Toland s 
Christianity Not Mysterious, in which he made use of 
Locke s definition of knowledge and other epistemological 
elements of his philosophy. Stephen is probably right 
in saying that "Toland attempted to gain a place in 
social and literary esteem by boasting of his intimacy 
with Locke, and by engrafting his speculations upon 
Locke s doctrines." 1 Though Locke repudiated Toland, 
Stillingfleet, Bishop of Worcester, grouped them together 
in his contribution to the Unitarian discussion, to which 
Locke replied. This resulted in the well-known con 
troversy between Stillingfleet and Locke. The Essay 
had been before the public six years, and was unusually 
popular for a philosophical treatise, the third edition 
having appeared in 1695. It had been criticized already, 
especially by Norris, and by Sherlock who objected to 
Locke s criticism of innate ideas. Stillingfleet under 
took to review the whole philosophical system of Locke 
and to show that it tended to foster just that atti 
tude toward the traditional views of Christianity 
which is found in Toland s book. This, no doubt, has 
served to emphasize Toland s alleged dependence upon 
Locke. 2 

1 Leslie Stephen, English Thought in the Eighteenth Century, I, 90-93. 

a "Toland, an Irish Pantheist, in his Christianity Not Mysterious, has 
exaggerated some doctrines in the Essay and then adopted them thus 
exaggerated as premises of his own" (Fraser, Locke s Essay Concerning 
Human Understanding, Preface, p. xli). At this period in Toland s life 
we find no evidence in his writings of a pantheistic bent; that seems to 
have been a later development. 

Direct Evidence 157 

Generally speaking the Lockian epistemology is 
adopted by Toland. In attempting to give his dis 
cussion a philosophical foundation in the opening pages 
of Christianity Not Mysterious, he accepts Locke s 
definition of knowledge, emphasizes the inadequacy of 
our knowledge of the essence of things, and distinguishes 
our knowledge of nominal essence, which we can attain, 
from knowledge of real essence, of which we have no 
manner of notion, and concludes that we know only the 
observable qualities of things (pp. 81 ff.). Toland also 
emphasized the necessity of clear and definite ideas, 
which is thoroughly in the spirit of Locke. But he 
went much farther than Locke in the application of these 
principles. Locke, as we saw, in spite of his rationalism 
always held firmly to the supernatural, largely in the 
orthodox sense. But in Toland s book Lockian doctrines 
were applied very differently from the way Locke 
intended they should be, as even Stillingfleet acknowl 
edged, and it is probable that they underwent some 
change in Toland s hands. Locke in the debate with 
Stillingfleet frequently repudiated Toland, claiming that 
he " went upon another ground ; and Toland repudiated 
Locke twenty years later, 1 when he said, "I proceed 
upon different principles from Mr. Locke and principles 
that are better." 2 

1 Tetradymus, pp. 190 ff. 

3 Though it would be unfair to quote Locke s critics in proof of his 
responsibility for Toland s views, or of his identity with the deistic 
movement, we can properly use them to prove the opposite. If Stilling 
fleet and Edwards do not make him out a Deist, it is very probable that 
he was not identified with the movement by others. 

The controversy with Stillingfleet was started by the latter s 
attempt to join Locke with the Unitarians, which Locke resented. In 

158 John Locke and English Deism 

It is clear that so far as concerns the establishing of 
his m,ore radical conclusions, and it is these that give 
Toland s book its character, the Lockian elements play 
an unimportant part. Toland seems to forget his 
philosophical foundation when he develops his philosophy 
of religion. He made no use of Locke in his later 
writings; but he called attention to the difference that 
exists between himself and Locke. 

Zscharnack, in the introduction to his German trans 
lation of Christianity Not Mysterious, shows clearly 
that Toland s views as therein expressed could not have 
been influenced by the Reasonableness of Christianity. 

his reply Stillingfleet said that he was satisfied with Locke s attitude 
toward Scripture and was convinced that Toland used Locke s principles 
in a way in which Locke had not intended them to be used. Yet he 
insists that the grounds of certainty as set forth in the Essay lay him 
open to just such wrong use. He says in addressing Locke: "Your 
notions were turned to other purposes than you intended them." He is 
anxious to make this clear and repeats it a number of times. He wishes 
his reader to know that he recognizes clearly the difference that exists 
between Locke and Toland. He nowhere intimates that Locke is a 
Deist; he is satisfied with his attitude toward Scripture, though not 
with his views of the Trinity, which Locke persistently refuses to discuss. 
He also finds fault with certain of Locke s philosophical speculations, 
which he thinks may be used against supernatural revelation, but this 
he says is not as Locke intended (Stillingfleet, Works [London, 1710], 

III, S3 ff.)- 

Even the bitter Edwards, in his attack on The Reasonableness of 
Christianity, is satisfied to call Locke a Socinian and Racovian and to say 
that his book tended to atheism, that it had a "tang" of atheism; but 
he nowhere says that Locke is a Deist. Edwards was not the man who 
would refrain from using a scolding name for good manners sake. It 
is very probable that if he could have fastened the reproachful name 
Deist on Locke, he would have done it; his failure to do so is significant. 
We may conclude that Locke s opinions were distinguished from those 
of Toland and that he was not considered a Deist by Stillingfleet or 

Direct Evidence 159 

Toland s letters indicate that already in May of 1694 
he was at work on his book, and that at that time 
the central idea was well developed. Zscharnack makes 
a very clear case for Toland s independence of the 
influence of the Reasonableness of Christianity. In 
this book Locke is thoroughly rationalistic, but he 
holds firmly to the supernatural; while Toland is also 
thoroughly rationalistic, but he shows a very marked 
anti-supernatural tendency. Both proceed from the 
same motive, both magnify reason, which is in harmony 
with the spirit of the age; the difference lies in the way 
the principle is applied. Toland is radical; Locke is 
conservative. 1 


Collins does not show the influence of Locke any 
where in his Discourse on Freethinking. He mentions 
his name in a list of great men whom he calls freethinkers, 
Erasmus, Descartes, Grotius, Hooker, Chillingworth, 
Faulkland, Herbert, Hales, Milton, Whichcote, Cud worth, 
More, Temple, and Locke. Just a few pages before he 
had referred to Tillotson, "whom all English free 
thinkers own as their head." He also informs us that 
Carrol had called Locke and Clarke atheists. 2 In 
another work he quotes Locke and also refers to him in a 

1 In Vindidus Liberius, p. 37, Toland claims that Christianity Not 
Mysterious was read by the Bishop of Worcester, Mr. Norris, Dr. Paine, 
Dr. Browne, Dr. Beverly, and others. Some of these said it used unusual 
language, others that it favored Socinianism, "and a very few charged it 
with principles tending to Deism." 

Toland seems to be anxious to be considered orthodox in his religious 
views. He objects very vigorously to being called a Socinian or a Deist 
(Vindidus Liberius, p. 150; Nazarenus, p. xxiii). 

2 A Discourse of Freethinking, pp. 85, 171, 177. 

160 John Locke and English Deism 

marginal note; but neither passage is important. 1 
There is no evidence that Locke influenced Collins to any 
appreciable extent. 

That Locke was called a freethinker by Collins is not 
significant for the determination of Locke s relation to 
Deism. Though the name "freethinker" was often 
used at this time, more especially after Collins wrote his 
book, as synonymous with Deist, it also had a broader 
meaning and was claimed by some of the orthodox 
theologians. In 1715 certain anti-deistic clergymen 
began the publication of the Freethinker. 2 


Tindal s Christianity as Old as Creation appeared in 
1730, and in three years passed through four editions; 
it was translated into German in 1741. It was at once 
recognized as a standard work of Deism and was known 
as the "Deists Bible." Probably no other work is 
more representative of the movement. 3 

Tindal makes frequent use of the books of other 
writers on religious subjects, not only of those whom we 
associate closely with the Deists, such as Tillotson, whom 
he quotes at least a dozen times, and Burnet, to whom 
he frequently refers, but also of the more orthodox 
theologians, such as Scot, whom he quotes thirteen times, 
Prideaux, Nye, Taylor, Chillingworth, Sherlock, and 
Clarke. If we could determine affinity and dependence 
by a statistical survey of men quoted, we would conclude 
that Scot, Tillotson, Burnet, and Clarke were more 

l An Enquiry Concerning Human Liberty (London, 1735), pp. 32 ff., 77. 

2 Encyclopaedia Britannica, art. "Deism." 

J Lechler, Geschichte des englischen Deismus, p. 327. 

Direct Evidence 161 

responsible for shaping Tindal s radical views than 
Blount or Toland or Collins. He was probably making 
out the best case possible for his radical views from 
the writers who were considered good churchmen. 

It is very significant that, in establishing the legis 
lative authority of natural religion, he makes no use of 
Locke s philosophy. However there are several pas 
sages which might be used to show some dependence of 
Tindal on Locke. He quoted Locke just five times in 
his entire book ; three of these passages are unimportant. 
On page 301 there is a marginal reference to Locke which 
has no significance. And there is a long quotation on 
page 235 from the Essay which emphasizes reason as the 
means that men have for distinguishing between true 
religion and superstition. In this same argument he 
uses passages from Chillingworth, Taylor, Chandler, 
and others. Certainly all the progressive thinkers and 
probably many of the very orthodox clergy would find 
nothing objectionable in the position here set forth. 

On page 294 Tindal has a long quotation from the 
Essay (IV, xvi, 10) on the rules governing the value of 
testimony when it has been repeated. This supports the 
deistic contention, which began in Herbert, that, since 
our knowledge of revelation comes to us through tradi 
tion, it is of necessity not authoritative; revelation is 
authoritative as revelation only to the one who first 
receives it. Locke is discussing the degrees of assent 
and cites a well-known "rule observed in the law of 
England." Tindal takes this statement of the principle 
of law as made by Locke and makes a special application 
of it to the advantage of the religion of reason an 
application which Locke did not make, which is contrary 

162 John Locke and English Deism 

to Locke s views concerning revelation, and which could 
have been made just as well by simply citing the recog 
nized practice of the courts without mentioning Locke. 
Assuming that there is no contradictory evidence, and 
we have seen that there is such evidence, this passage 
would have no value as proof of the dependence of 
Tindal on Locke. 

Coming to the two important passages from Locke, 
we find that Tindal, in arguing against certain positions 
of Clarke, dissents from Clarke s doctrine that natural 
light cannot reveal to man that the sinner has forgiveness, 
and against this he quotes, on page 391, the teaching of 
Nye and Locke, 1 who are convinced that by the light of 
reason man can know God as good and merciful and 
forgiving. The point at issue is not whether we can 
know God by reason, but whether we can know enough 
about Him to be sure that He is merciful. Clarke said 
we could not; Nye, Locke, and Tindal said we could. 2 
The teaching is not characteristic of Deism. All those 
who held that the gospel is a republication of the pure, 
original religion, which was as old as creation, would not 
hesitate to assert it. 3 Though it was a liberal view, it 
was held by some rationalistic clergymen, who were 
generally considered orthodox. There is no proof here 
of the responsibility of Locke for Tindal s doctrine. 

But the quotation from Locke s Discourse on Miracles, 
which was published posthumously, seems to be clearly 

1 Locke, Works, VII, 133. 

2 Whatever Nye was, he was not a Deist. Wallace in Antitrinitarian 
Biography (London, 1850), I, 331, exonerates Nye from the author 
ship of a Unitarian tract that had been credited to him. 

s Sherlock, Discourses Preached on Several Occasions, V, 138. 

Direct Evidence 163 

deistic. It has been considered already in the study of 
Locke s attitude toward natural religion in the fifth 
chapter. Tindal is arguing that to magnify revelation 
is to weaken the force of the religion of reason, and to 
strike at all religion. In doing this he claims that even 
the Scriptures assume that man is an intelligent being, 
capable of knowing good from evil, and religion from 
superstition. And in support of this he quotes from 
Locke s Discourse on Miracles: 

That no mission can be looked upon to be divine, that delivers 
anything derogating from the honour of the one, only, true, 
invisible God, or inconsistent with natural religion and the rules 
of morality; because God having discovered to men that unity 
and majesty of his eternal godhead, and the truths of natural 
religion and morality by the light of reason, he cannot be supposed 
to back the contrary by revelation; for that would be to destroy 
the evidence and the use of reason, without which men cannot be 
able to distinguish divine revelation from diabolical imposture. 1 

Tindal believed that this passage teaches, (i) that 
no mission or revelation is true that admits of more than 
one God; (2) that men by reason know wherein honor of 
God consists; (3) that they must know by the light of 
reason what are the truths of natural religion and rules 
of morality. 

This passage from Locke may be understood as 
teaching that natural religion is the supreme legislator 
for all religions, which is a characteristic deistic doctrine. 
This does not fit in with what Locke has said elsewhere, 
as was shown in the study of his views of natural religion 
But Tindal does not give it this radical interpretation, 
and it can be read, as we saw, in a way that is consistent 

1 Locke, Works, IX, 261. 

164 John Locke and English Deism 

with Locke s general position. He insisted that the 
natural light of reason is supplemented by revelation. 
Perhaps theoretically reason can know God and all 
morality, but actually it fell short and revelation was 
necessary. As was observed above, we may conclude 
from this passage that reason and the religion of reason 
or natural religion, so far as it goes, cannot be con 
tradicted by other revelation. To this extent it may be 
considered to have a legislative authority over revela 
tion; but one cannot conclude anything concerning the 
adequacy of natural religion, which Tindal and the 
typical Deists assert and Locke denies. Without 
twisting the sense, this passage, which Locke himself 
never published, can be understood in a way that is in 
harmony with the explicit statements that Locke 
published concerning natural religion. It is not an 
argument for the deistic position of Locke, and Tindal 
did not use it as such. There is also no reason for assum 
ing that it influenced his general view. 

There is no other evidence, so far as the writer knows, 
that would suggest the dependence of Tindal on Locke. 
These passages show that Tindal in proving certain of 
his theses used passages from the writings of Locke. 
Even if there were no evidence to the contrary, and in 
the preceding chapters we have seen that there is much, 
to conclude on the bases of these passages that there was 
dependence would be to rest an important hypothesis 
on a very small and uncertain foundation. If Tindal s 
views were borrowed, the number and the character of 
the quotations from Tillotson, Sherlock, Scot, and others 
would suggest them as the sources of his system. We 
can co-ordinate a larger number of facts, and can bring 

Direct Evidence 165 

them together with a smaller remainder, if we assume 
that the author of the Deists Bible simply accepted the 
rationalistic and critical way of approaching religious 
problems, which was used by all progressive thinkers, 
including Locke, and applied it more radically than some 


In the Religion of Nature Delineated, Wollaston makes 
no use of Locke s philosophy, nor of any writing of his. 
Perhaps Locke s insistence upon the supernatural and 
the inadequacy of that which is purely ethical was so 
far out of harmony with the central thesis of Wollaston 
that he recognized in Locke another spirit, so different 
that he did not care to use any part of his system. 


Bacon is the philosopher whom Bolingbroke praises 
most, and Locke is the one whom he criticizes most. It 
is "our Verulam," "My Lord Bacon," "the herald of a 
new period," "astounding genius," before whose time 
the foundations were ill laid, but he laid them on the rock 
of nature and truth. 1 

He appreciates Locke as an empirical philosopher, 
who uses the psychological method. It is evident that 
he considered him one of the greatest thinkers of the age, 
greater than Descartes or Gassendi; the only person to 
be compared with him is Bacon. 2 

1 Bolingbroke, Works, VI, 155, 156, 404; VII, 243, 406. 

2 "The first steps toward a right conduct of the understanding 
.... are an accurate analysis of the mind, a careful review of the 
intellectual faculties .... and an attentive observation of the whole 

intellectual procedure When this is well and truly done by any 

writer, the reader will feel consciously that it is so; for he will perceive 

i66 John Locke and English Deism 

But when we come to religious problems, which are 
the issues that concern Deism, he dissents from Locke 
practically every time that he mentions him, and his 
criticism is often severe. Locke is glaringly incon 
sistent when he argues in the Reasonableness of Christian 
ity and in his commentaries on Paul s Epistle that there 
are degrees of historical probability. It does not fit in 
with what he said concerning error that attends the use 
of words. Locke is also inconsistent in asserting that 
the heathen did not know the one true God, though the 
works of nature were sufficient proof of Him. 1 He 
dissents from Locke s view concerning the origin of 
monotheism, that the Israelites were the only mono- 
theists among the ancients, and rejects his teaching 
that mankind before Christ lacked a clear knowledge 
of duty. 2 

He criticizes Locke s doctrine that saving faith is 
to believe that Jesus is the Messiah. This may be the 
primary but it is not the sole object of our faith. 
"There are other things, doubtless, contained in the 
revelation he made of himself, dependent on and relative 
to this article, without the belief of which, I suppose, that 
our Christianity would be very defective." 

Bolingbroke saw clearly that there was a funda 
mental difference between his view and that of Locke 

the phenomena of his own mind to be such as they are represented, and 
he will recollect that the same things have passed there, though he has 
not always, or at all observed them. This happens to me when I read 
the Essay on the Human Understanding. I am led as it were, through 
a course of experimental philosophy" (Works, VII, 603; see also VI, 
162, 163). 

1 Works, VI, 188. 2 Ibid., pp. 187, 192, 218. 

Direct Evidence 167 

concerning man s native capacity. Locke "asserts the 
insufficiency of human reason, unassisted by revelation, 
in its great and proper business of morality. Human 
reason never made out an entire body of the laws of 
nature from unquestionable principles, or by clear 
deduction. Scattered sayings incoherent apothegms 
of philosophers and wise men could never rise to the 
force of a law." When Locke contrasts the supposed 
imperfect knowledge of the religion of nature, which 
the heathen had, with "the supposed perfect knowledge, 
which is communicated in the Gospel, what he advances 
stands in direct contradiction to truth." 1 Perhaps 
Bolingbroke understood Locke s attitude toward natural 
religion better than some of Locke s modern readers. 
He saw that Locke emphasized the limitations of reason 
in a way that he could not approve. Locke pointed out 
the imperfections of natural religion and the necessity 
of revelation, while Bolingbroke laid stress upon the 
sufficiency and perfection of natural religion, and its 
normative authority for all religion. They represented 
two different tendencies in the religious thought of the 
age, and Bolingbroke knew it. 


Morgan professes himself to be a disciple of Locke, 
though he seldom mentions him, and disagreed with 
him on important points; but Morgan, like Wollaston 
and unlike Tindal, makes little use of what others have 
said. After investigating and rejecting Locke s teaching 
concerning innate ideas, he praises his greatness and 
adds: "in almost everything else, I must own Mr. Locke 

1 Ibid., pp. 327 ff., 351 ff. 

1 68 John Locke and English Deism 

as my master, and the first guide and director of my 
understanding." 1 Yet, with the exception of one 
passage, this is the only evidence of Locke s influence 
upon him. He refers to complex ideas in almost the 
words of Locke; it is clear that he had the discussion of 
the Essay in mind. But he at once passes on without 
making any special use of Locke s teachings. 2 

He dissents from the main thesis of the Reasonable 
ness of Christianity: 

Mr. Locke in his Reasonableness of Christianity has proved that 
the one single point as a matter of faith which the apostles preached 
in and about Judea, after the resurrection, was this, that Jesus 
was the Messiah, according to the prophets; and, I think, I have 
proved that our Jesus, or the true Christian Messiah, and Saviour 
of the world, never claimed that grand essential character, of being 
the temporal restorer and deliverer of the nation, and that he 
never promised any such thing to bring it about, either then, or 
at any other time. 

Morgan and Locke understood the Jewish Messianic 
expectation in different ways; Locke interpretes it 
after the traditional manner the anticipated deliverer 
is Christ the Redeemer, the spiritual leader of the whole 
race, who was sent by God; Morgan understood the 
expectation of Israel to point to a temporal restorer and 
deliverer and not to the "true Christian Messiah and 
Saviour of the world." Probably this difference between 
Locke and Morgan is accounted for by the difference 
between the Lockian and deistic views of prophecy. 3 

1 Physico-Theology, pp. 73, 74. 

3 Ibid., 174 ff. 

3 A. Morgan, Letter to Eusebius, in The Moral Philosopher, II, 57. 
Locke is also mentioned on p. 141 to illustrate a point, but it is without 
significance; he could have used any other name just as well. 

Direct Evidence 169 

The references that Morgan makes to Locke show 
that he knew him and esteemed him highly, but they 
do not prove that he is dependent on Locke in any 
matters of importance. In spite of his owning Locke as 
his master and guide and director of his understanding, 
he does not use his writings. A study of Morgan s book 
would never suggest that he sat at the feet of Locke. 
Any theory that might be offered to account for this 
difference between Morgan s professed dependence on 
Locke and the practical ignoring of Locke that we find 
in his works would be very uncertain; Morgan s books 
give us no clue. It may be due to the fact that he 
recognized that there was an essential difference between 
them, as did Bolingbroke. 

Woolston and Chubb give no evidence that they were 
even acquainted with Locke s writings. 


The above is a complete survey of the direct internal 
evidence of the dependence of the Deists on Locke. 
With the exception of Toland and Tindal, the references 
to Locke in deistic literature are without significance. 
Wollaston, Woolston, and Chubb do not use his writings 
and do not refer to him. In Toland we have more 
evidence of Locke s responsibility for the deistic opinions 
than in any other deistic writer. But here it concerns 
only the philosophical background of his religious 
speculation, which plays a very unimportant part in the 
development of the thesis that he is seeking to establish. , 
There is no evidence that the theological writings of / 
Locke influenced Toland in any way, and later in life he 
seems to emphasize his departure from Locke. Collins, 

i yo John Locke and English Deism 

though as a young man he stood in closer personal 
relation to Locke than any other Deist, gives no evidence 
of having been influenced by him. Tindal quoted Locke 
several times in support of certain theses that he sought 
to establish, but none of these passages are important 
in his philosophy of religion. If we were to establish 
Tindal s dependence on others by direct internal proofs, 
the evidence would point to Tillotson and Scot. There 
is no reason why Locke should be held responsible for 
the Deists Bible, and, as we saw in earlier chapters, 
there are good reasons why we should think that he is not 
responsible for it. Bolingbroke appreciates Locke s 
importance as a philosopher, but he also saw clearly that 
between him and the author of the Essay there was a 
fundamental difference, which was shown in his per 
sistent polemic against Locke s views on religious 
problems. And Morgan, though he claimed to be a 
disciple of Locke in most everything save the doctrine 
of innate ideas, shows no evidence of it in his books. 

The internal evidence shows that Locke s influence 

on the deistic movement, when it was at its height, was 
small, that it was greatest in Toland and either negligible 
or without significance in the writings of Wollaston, 
Tindal, and Morgan, who wrote the most important and 
most characteristic deistic books. As the movement 
advanced, it seemed to get farther away from Locke, and 
either ignored him or assumed a critical attitude toward 
him, more especially toward his religious views. 

When it is recalled that at this time Locke was the 
most important English philosopher, and that he exerted 
a molding influence in other fields, the Deists inde 
pendence of him becomes a problem. It is so contrary 

Direct Evidence 171 

to what we would naturally expect that it challenges us 
to seek an explanation. Probably Bolingbroke suggests 
the reason when he criticizes Locke for asserting the 
insufficiency of human reason in its great and proper 
business of morality, and the imperfect knowledge of the 
religion of nature, which the heathen had, when com 
pared with the perfect knowledge, which we have in the 
gospeD When Locke makes this contrast between 
natural and revealed religion, to the disparagement of 
the former, "what he advances stands in direct con 
tradiction to truth." As has been shown, Iboth Locke 
and the Deists were rationalistic, but Locke emphasized 
the limits of reason and the necessity of a supernatural 
revelation, while the Deists emphasized the sufficiency 
of reason in morals and religion and its normative 
authority over revelation. We know that Bolingbroke 
understood the significance of the difference between him 
and Locke; it is probable that W r ollaston and Tindal 
understood it also, and that this accounts for their 
indifferent attitude toward him. Had they considered 
Locke a supporter of their views, Wollaston, who seldom 
quoted from other writers, might have been silent, but 
Tindal would have paraded it in his book. Locke and 
the Deists differed radically; and the Deists knew it. 


The nature of this problem called for a study of the 
relation of Locke and Deism on the background of the 
speculation of that period. This study has been 
completed. We shall now bring together the results, 
define and compare Locke s religious opinions with those 
of the Deists, and test the several possible theories 
concerning the relation of Locke and Deism by the 
relative facts that have been gathered. 


We saw in the fourth chapter that the age was 
V dominated by two focal concepts, nature and reason. 
These were the two distinguishable but inseparable 
poles of liberal speculation. In order to be adequately 
grounded, institutions and principles must be both 
natural and reasonable. 

Just as the idea of development dominates speculative 
thinking today, so the leaders of English thought three 
hundred years ago undertook to account for all institu 
tions and principles by nature. It determines the 
character of things and gives them authority. In this 
all progressive thinkers agreed the liberal theologians, 
the philosophers, including the Cambridge Platonists 
and Locke, and the Deists. As an ultimate concept 
for grounding things it characterized the whole age. 


Conclusion 173 

When we ask what is meant by nature, opinions differ 
widely, and there is confusion. We can, however, 
bring the various conceptions into two general groups. 
We found that the liberal theologians, Locke and the 
Deists, regarded nature as the fixed world or world- 
order, made by God and revealing Him and His will, and 
that the Cambridge Platonists tended to conceive nature 
as a fixed and immutable order more or less independent 
of God. Generally speaking Locke and the Deists agree 
in their way of thinking of nature and stand in the line 
which comes down from Hooker ; Chubb is the only clear 
exception to this; Morgan and Bolingbroke speak in 
uncertain terms. 

Furthermore, all liberal thinkers agreed in the 
demand that everything, including religion, should be 
reasonable. There was an increasing conviction that 
authority was an inadequate foundation for the faith of 
rational beings. If religion is true, it must vindicate 
itself before the court of reason. No one dissented from 
this thesis; practically everybody accepted the rational 
istic way of looking at things. But there was wide 
divergence in the way this principle was applied, with 
consequent variations in results. Most writers on 
religious problems were content to use the scholastic 
formula, that revelation could give us that which was 
above reason but not that which was contrary to it. 
The liberal theologians, the Cambridge Platonists, 
Locke, and several of the early Deists held this view. 
Butthose Deists who represented the movement when it 

- vjff* 

was at its height asserted that, if there was such a thing 
as revelation, it could not give us anything above 
reason. They tended to become more and more hostile 

174 John Locke and English Deism 

to positive Christianity. All parties were rationalistic; 
but the Deists were more radical in their application of 
the rationalistic principle. 

Passing to the study of the difference between Locke 
and the Deists on disputed points, which constituted 
the fifth chapter, we found that nobody questioned the 
existence of God, but that there was some difference as 
to how it was proved. Locke considered the cos- 
mological proof a demonstration, criticized the ontologi- 
cal proof, and probably ignored the teleological proof; 
while the Deists, though they paid little attention to 
proving God s existence, at first taught that we have 
innate ideas of God, but this doctrine was given up later, 
and when the movement was most influential they 
emphasized the teleological proof and practically ignored 
the cosmological proof. Locke and the Deists proved 
the existence of God in different ways. 

There were also found unexpected agreements and 
some differences in the way God s relation to the world 
was conceived. Locke and all of the leading Deists 
accepted the doctrine of Providence in the traditional 
sense, though it was rejected by some unnamed writers, 
whom we know through the criticisms that were directed 
against them, and who were called Deists. Locke and 
all, or almost all, of the Deists accepted miracles as 
historical facts. But generally the deistic attitude 
toward miracles was hostile; they challenged certain 
biblical accounts of miraculous events and explained 
others away. Locke nowhere shows the skeptical atti 
tude toward miracles that characterized the Deists. He 
accepted and emphasized repeatedly the importance of 
miracles as evidence of revelation, which was the pre- 



vailing view of the time. The Deists, with the exception 
of Toland and Bolingbroke, denied all evidential value 
to miracles, and frequently emphasized and gave reason 
for this denial. This view characterized Deism; it was 
a radical departure from the views that were generally 
accepted, which were held by Locke. 

Perhaps no points of dispute in the deistic contro 
versy were more significant than the place and authority 
of revelation and of natural religion. Locke accepted 
supernatural revelation, which he identified with the 
Bible, and its authority, on rational grounds, as did 
practically all other progressive thinkers. It supple 
ments reason with that which is above it, but not 
contrary to it, which unaided reason could not attain. 
He also recognized fulfilled prophecy as a proof of revela 
tion. The Deists, with some reservations, accepted 
revelation as a fact, but they did not identify it with the 
Bible, and insisted, as a rule, that it could not supple 
ment reason, and some believed that it was superfluous. 
All Deists except Woolston deny that prophecy has 
any evidential value. Though they did not deny 
revelation, their attitude toward it was more and more 
skeptical as the movement advanced; at last they 
reduced the supernatural almost to the vanishing-point. 

All the liberal writers that have been studied recog 
nize the importance of natural religion; but all save 
the Deists emphasize its limitations and insufficiency. 
They sought to show that it must be supplemented by 
revelation; they denied to it all legislative authority 
over against revealed religion. But the Deists emphasize 
the limitations of revealed religion and the importance 
and normative authority of natural religion. 

1 76 John Locke and English Deism 

There was also a difference between Locke and the 
Deists in defining religion. The legalistic way of con 
ceiving religion prevailed in England at that time. But 
this, when joined to the more radical rationalism of the 
deistic movement, resulted in defining religion almost 
wholly in terms of morality. Locke in his definition of 
religion did not neglect the ethical side, but he empha 
sized the supernatural factors more than the Deists. 

It was also shown that all progressive thinkers 
advocated toleration. This was a subject that was 
debated between them and the defenders of rigid con 
formity. It is really not a part of the deistic controversy. 


In summing up the results of this study we have 
really defined Locke s philosophy of religion and Deism. 
By taking into consideration the speculations of others, 
we have found that some very prominent elements 
common to both Locke and Deism are not characteristic 
features, but that they mark out and characterize the 
age rather than any particular writer or movement of 
the age. 

Both Locke and the Deists were rationalistic and 
critical in their method of treating religious problems; 
both appealed to reason as over against authority. But 
Locke was conservative and the Deists were radical. 
He and all , other liberal thinkers except the Deists 
emphasized the authority of an externally given revela 
tion. He is reverential in his attitude toward old 
beliefs, and uses his rationalistic method to establish the 
traditional supernatural sanctions, as do the other 

Conclusion 177 

progressive thinkers; the Deists are hostilely critical 
toward old beliefs, and apply their rationalistic method to 
discredit the traditional supernatural sanctions in the 
interests of establishing the sole normative authority of 
natural religion. Both Locke and the Deists recognize 
the importance of natural religion. Locke insisted that 
it was insufficient and must be supplemented by revela- 
Jk tion; the Deists held that it was sufficient and normative 
for revelation and all religion. 

The resemblances are in the principles which shape 
their thinking, which were rationalistic and critical, and 
were common to the whole progressive movement; the 
differences are in the way these principles were applied 
and in the consequent results. 

These differences were recognized at that time. Not 
even Locke s severest critics classed him among the 
Deists; and Leland, the persistent foe of Deism, writing 
only half a century after Locke s death, recognized 
Locke as differing from and separate from the deistic 
movement. 1 Bolingbroke was aware of an irreconcilable 
difference between his views and those of Locke, and 
probably Tindal was also. And Locke in the Reason 
ableness of Christianity classes himself as differing from 
the Deists and among their critics, for against such was 
the book written. 2 

John Leland, The Principal Deistkal Writers (London 1754), I, 
51 ff., 380. 

2 There has been some difference of opinion as to whether Shaftes- 
bury should be classed as a Deist. We are now in a position to deter 
mine where he belongs. He accepted revelation and inspiration as facts 
and expressly dissents from the deistic attitude toward revelation 
(Characteristics [1732], I, 535 H, 210;. Ill, 74). He would not exalt 
reason above faith nor dare to oppose the sacred histories of religion 

178 John Locke and English Deism 


The data from which we are to form a theory as to 
the nature of the relation that exists between Locke and 
English Deism have been collected and critically 
reviewed. The problem now is to devise a statement of 
this relation that will fit the facts, that will enable us to 
co-ordinate our historical data with the least remainder. 

The possible theories that might be formulated for 
setting forth this relation between Locke and English 
Deism were set forth in the closing section of the first 
chapter. We are now in a position to test them by 

a) It may be that the relation that exists between 
Locke and English Deism is causal, that the one in large 

(II, 207). In a striking passage he asserts his orthodoxy (III, 315, 316). 
" In the first place, it will appear, that through a profound respect, and 
religious veneration, we have foreborne so much as to name any of the 
sacred and solemn mysteries of revelation. And, in the next place, as 
we can with confidence declare, that we have never in any writing, 
public or private, attempted such high researches, nor have ever in 
practice acquitted ourselves otherwise than as just Conformists to the 
lawful Church; so we may, in a proper sense, be said faithfully and 
dutifully to embrace those holy mysteries, even in their minutest particu 
lars, and without the least exception on account of their amazing depth. 
And though we are sensible that it would be no small hardship to deprive 
of a liberty of examining and searching, with due modesty and submis 
sion, into the nature of those subjects; yet as for ourselves, who have not 
the least scruple whatsoever, we pray not any such grace or favor in our 
behalf: being fully assured of our own steady orthodoxy, resignation, and 
entire submission to the truly Christian and Catholick doctrines of our 
Holy Church, as by Law established." 

If Shaftsbury had been a Deist he could not have written this. 
From what we know of his moral character we are justified in accepting 
his own statement. 

Leland, in The Principal Deistical Writers (I, 57 ff.), classes Shaftes- 
bury among the Deists, but he probably confuses Shaftesbury s 

Conclusion 179 

degree accounts for the other. This w r ould readily 
explain the likenesses. But a causal relation may work 
either way: Deism may be responsible for Lockian 
thought, or Locke may be responsible for Deism the 
"progenitor" of the Deists, as Stephen expressed it. 

i) If Deism is responsible for Locke, it is the Deism 
before Toland, the doctrines of Herbert and of the 
unnamed Deist against whom Stillingfleet wrote, and 
of the writer of the letter to Blount in the Oracles of 
Reason, and of Blount. The time relation makes it 
impossible for Toland and the later Deists to have 
influenced him in any way. Both Locke and the early 
Deists were rationalistic and they emphasize nature and 
reason as did many others; they probably understood 

approval of critical methods in the study of Scripture with hostility to 

Tillotson, Archbishop of Canterbury, who was a famous preacher 
and a leader in the church, has often been classed among the Deists. 
Perhaps more than any other writer, outside of the camp of the Deists, 
Tillotson emphasized the importance of natural religion. He taught 
that natural knowledge of God is the foundation of all revelation and 
that revelation must be in harmony with natural religion. But he also 
pointed out the defects of natural religion. It does not suffice. "Its 
sanctions have proved ineffective, and it has therefore been supplemented 
by revelation. The function of the latter is not to destroy or correct 

natural religion, but simply to make it clearer and more effective 

Certain requirements are added by revelation, particularly that we 
should recognize Christ as the Son of God, worship God in His name, and 
receive the sacraments, but these are enjoined with the same purpose 
of promoting virtue." 

Tillotson is evidently close to the Deists. But his insistence that 
revelation supplements natural religion, and that prophecy and miracles 
are proofs of revelation, show that he assigned a much greater place to 
the supernatural factors in Christianity than the typical Deists were 
ready to admit. He was probably one of the most radical of the super 
natural rationalists, but not a Deist (McGiffert, Protestant Thought 
before Kant, pp. 194 ff.). 

180 John Locke and English Deism 

nature in the same way. But they differed as to reason. 
Herbert claimed that his five universal articles of 
natural religion or the religion of reason were universal 
because they were innate, and Blount agreed with him 
in this, which was contrary to Locke s philosophy. They> 
also differed radically in their attitude toward revelation 
and Scripture, and in their view concerning the authority 
of natural religion. As has been shown, they agree inS 
those things that characterize the age, they differ in that! 
w T hich distinguishes Deism. These important differences^ 
make this theory untenable. 

2) But perhaps the causal relation may be found 
to work the other way; it may be that Locke accounts 
for Deism. So many important movements can be 
traced to Locke that it would be natural for one, who 
chances upon marked resemblances between Locke and 
Deism, to assume that he shaped the movement. Locke 
was rationalistic; so were the Deists; Locke emphasized 
natural religion, so did the Deists; and there is internal 
evidence that the later Deists used Locke s writings, 
though in a way that was not significant. But there 
were radical differences between Locke and Deism. As 
has been shown, they agree in that which characterized 
the age and they differ in that which characterized 
Deism; this would suggest that they were products of 
the same period but that they developed differently, not 
necessarily that one was the cause of the other. If 
Locke was the cause of Deism, there should be conclusive 
evidence of the dependence of the Deists on Locke; 
such evidence does not exist. 

Furthermore, the time factor makes it impossible 
that Locke should account for the deistic movement. It 

Conclusion 181 

began in England with Herbert, who died in 1648, and in 
1678 it had become so strong that Stillingfleet attacked v 
it. Whoever the anonymous Deist was, against whom 
Stillingfleet directed his polemic, we learn from the 
quotations in his Letter to a Deist (see note 3, p. 107) and 
from references that he makes to him that he held 
practically all of the views that characterized the 
writings of Wollaston and Tindal and Morgan. The 
same is true of the letter to Blount in the Oracles of 
Reason. The deistic movement was present in all its 
essential features before Locke could have influenced it. 
Locke could not have been the father of Deism. 

b] The theories that we have considered thus far 
set Locke and Deism over against each other and treat 
them in a more or less complete mutual isolation. It 
may be that this is wrong, that they belong together, 
that they form one and the same movement, that 
whatever else Locke was he was one of that group of 
liberal thinkers in England of the seventeenth century, 
commonly known as Deists, who fostered free and critical 
thinking in matters of religion. If there are differences 
between him and Wollaston or Tindal or Morgan, these 
are due to the fact that they represent a later and more 
radical development of the movement. Deism is but 
Locke s philosophy of religion grown up; they took his 
principles and followed them to their logical conclusion. 
Thus all differences between Locke and Deism would be 
differences in the stage of development along one line; 
both were rationalists; the Deists were more radical than 

But, as has been observed, practically all of the 
characteristic features of Deism had been developed 

182 John Locke and English Deism 

before Locke. Stillingfleet s unnamed Deist, though 
probably much less important, was as much of a Deist as 
the author of "the Deists Bible," and the same can be 
said of the writer of the letter to Blount. But assuming 
that there was no time factor to argue against this 
theory, it would still be clearly unfair to identify Locke 
with the deistic movement in this way; for those prin 
ciples of Locke, which the advocates of this theory say 
the Deists simply developed farther, were not peculiar 
to Locke but were held by practically every other repre 
sentative of the liberal movement. The rationalistic 
and naturalistic motives in the speculations of Locke 
are not characteristic of him, they characterize the whole 

liberal movement. Even if the deistic doctrines are but 

the normal development of these rationalistic principles, 
it does not argue that Locke is identified with the 
deistic movement any more than many other liberal 

c) The theories that would define the relation 
between Locke and Deism as causal, or would conceive 
them as forming one movement and marking different 
stages in it, were rejected because they could not provide 
adequately for certain differences between Locke and 
Deism, and because they fail to meet the temporal 
conditions. The chief argument for them was the 
marked resemblance between the two systems. But as 
has been shown, the likenesses between Locke and Deism 
are no greater than the likenesses between Deism and 
many other liberal writers of this period; probably 
Tindal resembles Tillotson and Sherlock more closely 
i than he resembles Locke. The Deists and Locke agree 
. in their rationalistic way of looking at things, which 

Conclusion 183 

characterized the whole liberal movement, and they 
differ in that which characterized Deism. This suggests 
another way of stating the relation that exists between 

/They are co-ordinate parts of one and the same 
general movement. The rational theologians, the Cam 
bridge Platonists, Locke, and the Deists constitute the 
party of progress. They are all rationalistic; they 
protest against scholastic tradition and intolerance in 
the name of nature and reason; they face the same foes 
and use the same weapons.X Locke and Deism would 
then appear as different manifestations of the same 
spirit of the age, which was seen also in all other writers 
of the liberal party. They are distinguishable parts of 
one whole. Their common elements are the character 
istic marks of the age, and their points of divergence are 
the characteristic features of the respective systems. 
The resemblances between Locke and Deism are not 
those of parent and child, but rather those of fellow- 
members of the same family. They are related, and 
losely related, but their relation is not causal, nor do 
hey mark different stages of the same movement. 

If we accept this theory, all difficulties with the time 
factor disappear. If they are co-ordinate parts of the 
larger liberal movement, deistic views may be held 
before or after or at the same time with Locke. The 
important differences between Locke and the Deists are 
provided for; they are the characteristic features that 
show that they are different parts of this one movement. 
And the significant resemblances, which are common 
to the various parts of this movement, show that in 
certain fundamental respects they are one. 

184 John Locke and English Deism 

If Deism is more radical in its application of the 
rationalistic principle, it is no more a further development 
of Locke than of the liberal theologians. Possibly 
Locke influenced some of the later Deists, but there is no 
evidence that he determined the movement to any 
appreciable extent; certainly he cannot be held respon 
sible for the radical spirit which is the characteristic 
mark of Deism. 

If this is a correct statement of the relation between 
Locke and English Deism, the prevailing views are 
wrong; Locke cannot be the father of the deistic move 
ment, it cannot be merely a further development of the 
principles that he held, nor can he be considered a part 
of the movement. As was set forth in the second 
chapter, most students of the history of philosophy 
represent Locke and Deism as closely related in one or 
the other of these two ways. The special study of 
Crous, which makes Locke a Deist in almost all essen 
tials, is also wrong. Crous misinterpreted the points of 
agreement and failed to observe many points of dif 
ference. The views of von Hertling and McGiffert and 
perhaps also that of Windleband are not necessarily 
contradicted by the theory concerning the relation of 
Locke and Deism which is advocated here. They seem 
to have grasped it partly, to have been moving toward 
it, but they did not understand it fully. Accordingly, 
this theory, which makes Locke and English Deism 
co-ordinate parts of the larger liberal movement of that 
time, either corrects or supplements the views that have 
been held hitherto. 


rvK \ 


Abelard, i 
Absentee God, go ff. 
Academic freedom, 4 
Albertus Magnus, 47 
Aquinas, Thomas, 47, 54 
Atheists, 8, 84, 116, 146, 159 
Augustine, 109 

Bacon, Francis, 6, 10, 20, 38, S3, 165 

Bacon, Roger, 3 

Berkeley, Bishop, 109 

Blount, s, 25 ff., 40, 58, 74, 88, 92, 96, 
I 38, 154, 155, i?9ff.; on revelation, 
106 ff.; on prophecy- 112; on natural 
religion, 127 ff. 

Bolingbroke, 61, 99, 100, 149, 151, 154, 

165 ff., 170, 173, 175, 177; on nature, 60; 

on reason, 76 ff.; on revelation, 109; 

on prophecy, 113; on natural religion, 

Boyle, 6, 10, 38, 55, 73, 90, 93, 95, in, 

112; on natural religion, 121 
Bruno, 2 

Burnet, 38, 96, 160 
Bury, 26 
Butler, Bishop, 119 ff. 

Cambridge, 7 

Cambridge Platonism, 8, 10, 15, 23, 28, 
38, 61, 68 ff., 71, 77, 81, 116/134, 140, 
142 ff., 147, 149, 150, 173, 183; on 
nature, 34 ff-; on reason, 68 ff.; on 
natural religion, 120 ff. 

Carrol, 159 

Chillingworth, 10, 142, 143, 159. 160; on 

reason, 66 
Chubb, 27, 41, 93 ff., 99 ff., ii 3) I3I> I4g> 

154, 169, 173; on nature, 61; on reason, 

78; on revelation, m 
Clarke, 92, 95, 97, 98, 115, 159, 160, 162 
Collins, 20, 25, 40, 88, 92, 97, 108, 112, 

149, 154, iS9, 169 ff.; on nature, 58; 

on reason, 73; on natural religion, 128 
Condillac, 20 
Conservative party, 39 
Contemporary thought, survey of, 36 ff. 
Cromwell, 10 

Crous, 243., 137, 146, 130, 184 
Cudworth, 54, 69. 71, 134, 140. 143, IS 9 
Culverwell, 10, 71; on nature, 34; on 

reason, 69 ff. 

Dante, 2 

Deists, 10, n, 12, 17 ff.; on natural reli 
gion, 131 ff.; on toleration, 148 ff. 
Deist s Bible, 160, 163, 170, 182 
Descartes, 7, 88, 139, 165 
Digby, 8 
Dogmatism, age of, 3 

Ecclesiastical authority, 2 
Edwards, 137 ff. 
Enlightenment, 21 
Erasmus, 139 
Essays and Reviews, 132 

Faith, defined by Locke, 103 
Falkenberg, 21 
Faulkland, 10, 142, 139 
Fischer, Kuno, 18, 27 
Fraser, 91 ff., 136 
Freethinker, 22, 51, 160 

Galileo, 2 
Gassendi, 163 

Genetic method, 28 ff., 31; error of 
G. M., 44 ff. 

Gildon, 38 

God, proof of existence of, cosmological, 
845., 89, go, 174; ontological, 87, 90, 
174; teleological, 88, 89 ff., 174; from 
innate ideas, 88, 89, 174 

Grotius, 46, 139 "" 

Hales, 10, 142, 139 

Harvey, 38 

Henry IV, i 

Herbert of Cherbury, 10, 15, 24, 41, 33, 
37, 74, 88, 96, 138, 140, 148, 133, 159, 
161, 179 ff.; on revelation, 106; on 
natural religion, I26ff., 136; the five 
articles of religion, 137 

Heresy, laws against, 4 

Hertling, von, 23, 28 ff. 

Hildebrand, Pope, i 

Hobbes, 10, 20, 24, 38, 46, 33, 34, 67, 88, 
120, 153 

Hoffding, 22 ff. 

Hooker, Richard, 10, 37, 77, 78, 79, 134, 
159. 173; on nature, spff.; on reason, 
64 ff.; on natural religion, 118 

Hume, 20 



John Locke and English Deism 

Laud, 6 

Lechler, 18 ff. 

Legalism, 133 fi., 139 ff., 176 

Leibnitz, 22 

Leland, 177 ff. 

Leo, Pope, X, 2 

Liberal party, 9, 10, n, 39 ff., 79, 116, 173 

Locke, ioff., 17 ff.; on toleration, 8, 

145 ff.; on nature, 55 ff.; on reason, 56, 

71 ff.; proof of existence of God, 84 ff.; 

on prophecy, 112; on natural religion, 

121 ff.; legalism in thought of, 135 ff.; 

the essay, 153 
Luther on persecution, 3 
Malebranche, 109 
McGiffert, 115, 179 
Milton, 10, 144, 159 
Miracles, as proof of revelation, 94 ff., 

100 ff., 106, 174 

Miracles, non-biblical, 96, 98, 99 
Moore, 143, 159 
Morgan, 27, 41, 61, 89, 93, 99, 149, 167 ff., 

170, i"3, lolj on nature, 60; on reason, 

77 ff.; on revelation, 1 10; on prophecy. 

113; on natural religion, 130; religion 

as morality, 139 ff. 

Nature, different meanings of, 48; origin 
of concept, 50; conceived in two ways, 
62, 172 ff. 

Nature, law of, 51 ff., 58 ff. 

Natural light, 48 ff. 

Newton, 38, oo 

Noncomformity, 141 

Norris, 156 

Nye, 160, 162 

Oxford, 7, 8 ii, 141, 157 

Pattison, 132 
Petrarch, 2 

Politico-economic interests, 37 
Pomponazzi, 2 
Popery, 116 
Pridaux, 119 ff., 160 
Protestant intolerance, 4 ff., 38, 145 
Providence, Locke on, 90 ff.; Deists on, 
92 ff., 174 

Ramus, 8 

Rational Theologians, 45 ff., 64 5., 118 ff., 
133 ff., 149, 150, 183 ff. 

Reformation, 3, 5, 7, 9 

Religious interests, 37 ff. 

Restoration, 153 

Revelation and the Bible, 102, 115; de 
nned by Locke, 103, 175 

Right of private judgment, 4, 9 
Royal Society, The, 6, 38, 153 

Scholasticism, 7 

Scholasticism, Protestant, 21 

Science, 38 ff. 

Scot, 160, 164, 170 

Scotists, 47 

Shaftesbury, First Earl of, 146 

Shaftesbury, Third Earl of, not a Deist 

177 ff- 
Sherlock, 81, 119, 132, 156, 160, 164; on 

nature, 52; on reason, 67 
Smith, John, 69, 143 
Socinians, 22, 159 
Socrates, 75, 140 
Spinoza, 151 

Steven, Leslie, 19 ff., 29, 156 
Stillingfleet, 18 ff., 81, 105, in ff., 142, 153, 

is6ff., 1792.; on nature, 51; on reason, 

66; on natural religion, 119; Letter to a 

Deist, 107 ff. 
Sydenham, 6, 10, 38, 151 

Taylor, Jeremy, 10, 142, 160; on reason, 66 

Tillotson, 10, 51 ff., 81, 95, 115, 119, 159, 
160, 164, 170, 179, 182 

Temple, 8, 159 

Tindal, 27, 40, 52, 88, 90, 92, 98 ff., 112, 
114, 154, i6off., 1695., 177, 181; on 
nature, 59; on reason, 75 ff.; on revela 
tion, 1 08 ff.; on natural religion, 128 ff.; 
on religion as morality, 138 ff. 

Toland, 12, 18 ff., 25. 66, 88, 92, 97, 100, 
112, 1154, 156 ff., 169, 175, 179; on 
nature, 58; on reason, 75; on revela 
tion, 1 08; on natural relig on 128 

Toleration, 3, 26, 37, 42; the liberal party 
and, 141 ff. 

liberweg, 17, 27 
Unitarians, 20, 66, 156 ff. 
Virgil, 2 
Voltaire, 20, 44 

Warburton, 66 

Whichcote, 54, 68, I2O, 128, 134, 143, 159 

Windleband, 21, 23, 29 

religion as morality, 139 ff. 
Woolston. 40, 98, 112, 115, 131, 149, 154, 
169, 175 

Zscharnack 158 ff. 

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