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C.D. Warner, et al., comp.  The Library of the World’s Best Literature.
An Anthology in Thirty Volumes.  1917.
Of Almighty God
By Thomas Hobbes (1588–1679)
From ‘Leviathan

HITHERTO of the knowledge of things natural, and of the passions that arise naturally from them. Now forasmuch as we give names not only to things natural but also to supernatural, and by all names we ought to have some meaning and conception, it followeth in the next place to consider what thoughts and imaginations of the mind we have, when we take into our mouths the most blessed name of God, and the names of those virtues we attribute unto him; as also, what image cometh into the mind at hearing the name of spirit, or the name of angel, good or bad.  1
  And forasmuch as God Almighty is incomprehensible, it followeth that we can have no conception or image of the Deity; and consequently all his attributes signify our inability and defect of power to conceive anything concerning his nature, and not any conception of the same, excepting only this, That there is a God. For the effects we acknowledge naturally do include a power of their producing, before they were produced; and that power presupposeth something existent that hath such power: and the thing so existing with power to produce, if it were not eternal, must needs have been produced by somewhat before it, and that again by something else before that, till we come to an eternal (that is to say, the first) Power of all powers, and first Cause of all causes: and this is it which all men conceive by the name of God, implying eternity, incomprehensibility, and omnipotency. And thus all that will consider, may know that God is, though not what he is: even a man that is born blind, though it be not possible for him to have any imagination what kind of thing fire is, yet he cannot but know that something there is that men call fire, because it warmeth him.  2
  And whereas we attribute to God Almighty seeing, hearing, speaking, knowing, loving, and the like, by which names we understand something in men to whom we attribute them,—we understand nothing by them in the nature of God. For, as it is well reasoned, Shall not the God that made the eye, see, and the ear, hear? so it is also, if we say, Shall God, which made the eye, not see without the eye; or that made the ear, not hear without the ear; or that made the brain, not know without the brain; or that made the heart, not love without the heart? The attributes, therefore, given unto the Deity are such as signify either our incapacity or our reverence: our incapacity, when we say Incomprehensible and Infinite; our reverence, when we give him those names which amongst us are the names of those things we most magnify and commend, as Omnipotent, Omniscient, Just, Merciful, etc. And when God Almighty giveth those names to himself in the Scriptures, it is but anthropopathos,—that is to say, by descending to our manner of speaking; without which we are not capable of understanding him.  3

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