Manuscript held by G. W. Leibniz Bibliothek, Hanover
Shelfmark LH 1, 1, 2 Bl. 27-28

Date: Draft - early 1707?

Translated from the French

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[LH 1, 1, 2 Bl. 27r]

     We have just been deprived of one of the most learned and ingenious authors of our times, the loss of whom I regret all the more since I had benefited from his insights when conferring with him about the new doctrine of the pre-established harmony, and since I hoped to1 communicate with him in the future on equally difficult and important matters, which I have tried to go further into for a number of years, and which he had started to examine with a great deal of care since he had been attacked by persons of reputation. I had written a system of freedom and2 related matters, the form of which will possibly have something new, but the materials of which are old, and I would have been delighted to have it pass under the judgement of this excellent man as well as to that of those in dispute with him. He has just been taken from us, but as the matter is on the table, and as able people are still working on it and the public is still interested in it, I thought the occasion should be used to publish thoughts whose principal aim is such knowledge of God as is necessary to stimulate piety and nourish virtue. I hope that these thoughts will also serve to illuminate the thorny questions which have troubled people for a long time regarding the conformity of faith with reason and the usage of philosophy in theology.3 The justice of God is the principal subject of this work, in which the questions of his wisdom, his goodness and his holiness naturally enter. And I intend to show that he has given us good and true notions of these attributes, without which we would have no grounds to recognize them in him and to praise him for them.

[LH 1, 1, 2 Bl. 27v]

     I know there are several renowned theologians and philosophers who think we have no idea of divine goodness and justice. Sunt superis sua jura, said the poet,4 or else some claim that justice is something arbitrary in relation to God on account of his supreme power. It is with this view that sometimes people try to respond to the awkward difficulties raised over evil, sin, the suffering of the good, the prosperity of the wicked, and predestination.
     Those who use what they call strict methods in relation to grace sometimes explain themselves in that way, and Mr Bayle, in wanting to silence reason after having made it speak, seems well-disposed towards them. I have always thought that this is to cut the knot instead of unravelling it. It even seems that it would follow that we should only fear God, and that there is no way to love him if it is true that the perfections which give grounds for fear, that is, his power and greatness, subsist by themselves, and if those which can make him lovable, that is, goodness, justice, and the wisdom of his government, mean nothing, and do not even enter into our ideas.
     I think5 that those who advance these doctrines are not lacking in good intention: their aim is doubtless to inspire men into a perfect submission to God's orders, but it seems to me that this is through the motive of forced patience which would hold good even if one were faced with a tyrant who is feared and completely unloved; thus this motive is not sufficient. I do not accuse these authors of distancing men from the love of God; fortunately their speculative principles do not turn into practice. Mr Jurieu himself declares that we should approach those he calls Pelagians when it's a matter of making exhortations. And the supralapsarians write books of devotion that are as edifying as those of others. I even find something great, lofty, and worthy of God in these authors who appear so strict, and I have always had a liking for those who have asserted the sovereign independence of the divine nature, provided that they do not make it depend upon his other attributes and do not make God independent of sovereign reason, which is himself.
     Scarcely had I learned to understand the Latin authors when I began leafing through not only the historians and the poets but also the books on meditation, and I was especially charmed [LH 1, 1, 2 Bl. 28r] by the work of Laurentius Valla against Boëthius,6 and by that of Luther against Erasmus,7 which was the most profound one he ever wrote. It is true that these two books have need of mitigation, but they nevertheless contain great and beautiful ideas. From that time I considered what had been said on both sides by Theodore Beza and Jakob Andreae in the colloquy of Monbéliard which rekindled these disputes.8 And I have since consulted the writings of many other theologians and philosophers, but particularly that of the celebrated Hobbes against Bishop Bramhall,9 which appeared only in English; not to mention Bradwardine, Archbishop of Canterbury in the fourteenth century,10 and many other authors who have upheld an absolute necessity of all things, or who have set themselves apart by exalting God's right over creatures so far as to say that he has the right to damn innocents. It is therefore not without knowledge of the cause, nor by any prejudice or passion, that I have believed another position had to be taken. It seemed to me that these rigid dogmas were not always founded in reason, and even less in revelation, and that they could be harmful if the practice of those who follow them became too much in keeping with the theory.11 The idea of12 a substance with absolute power being indifferent to the happiness and misfortune of intelligent creatures is hardly able to inspire charitable feelings in men, who should propose the idea of God as the most perfect of all models.13
     The question of the conformity of faith with reason has always been a great problem...


1. to | benefit from them further | deleted.
2. and | grace | deleted.
3. theology. | I am using the title Theodicy since | deleted.
4. 'The gods have their own laws.' Ovid, Metamorpheses X.83.
5. think | that those who say these things | deleted.
6. Laurentius Valla, Elegantiae linguae Latinae (Venice, 1471).
7. Martin Luther, De servo arbitrio (Wittenberg, 1525).
8. Jakob Andreae, Colloquium Mompelgartense (Tubingen, 1587).
9. Thomas Hobbes, The Questions Concerning Liberty, Necessity, And Chance. Clearly Stated and Debated Between D. Brahmall Bishop of Derry, and Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury (1656).
10. Thomas Bradwardine, De causa Dei contra Pelagium et de virtute causarum ad suos Mertonenses libri III (London, 1618).
11. theory. | I have nevertheless benefited from the profound meditations of these authors, whose views are not in any way mine, and I have found that one can preserve much of them by accommodating them to common notions, and that one can humanize what is true in their austerity. | deleted.
12. of | an absolute power in (α) God (β) the supreme substance | deleted.
13. models. | Some strict persons have thought that they had revelation on their side, and when they are made to see the problems with their doctrine they remonstrate against reason, (α) while on the other side their opponents maintained that it was the curiosity of a corrupted reason which brought about opinions which are extravagant and completely removed from what Holy Scripture teaches us about goodness of God. (β) while their opponents maintained that, on the contrary, it was rather an abuse of reason which had given rise to opinions which are extravagant and completely removed from what Holy Scripture teaches us about goodness of God. | deleted.

© Lloyd Strickland 2016