Chillingworth and Taylor found successors in the restless good sense of Burnet, the enlightened piety of Tillotson, and the calm philosophy of Bishop Butler. Meanwhile the impulse which such men were giving to religious speculation was being given to political and social inquiry by a mind of far greater keenness and power.
Bacon's favourite secretary was Thomas Hobbes. "He was beloved by his Lordship," Aubrey tells us, "who was wont to have him walk in his delicate groves, where he did meditate; and when a notion darted into his mind, Mr. Hobbes was presently to write it down. And his Lordship was wont to say that he did it better than anyone else about him; for that many times when he read their notes he scarce understood what they writ, because they understood it not clearly themselves." The long life of Hobbes covers a memorable space in our history. He was born in the year of the victory over the Armada; he died, at the age of ninety-two, only nine years before the Revolution. His ability soon made itself felt, and in his earlier days he was the secretary of Bacon, and the friend of Ben Jonson and Lord Herbert of Cherbury. But it was not till the age of fifty-four, when he withdrew to France on the eve of the Great Rebellion, that his speculations were made known to the world in his treatise "De Cive." He joined the exiled Court at Paris, and became mathematical tutor to Charles the Second, whose love and regard for him seem to have been real to the end.
But his post was soon forfeited by the appearance of his "Leviathan"; he was forbidden to approach the Court, and returned to England, where he seems to have acquiesced in the rule of Cromwell. The Restoration brought him a pension; but both his works were condemned by Parliament, and "Hobbism " became, ere he died, the popular synonym for irreligion and immorality. Prejudice of this kind sounded oddly in the case of a writer who had laid down, as the two things necessary to salvation, faith in Christ and obedience to the law. But the prejudice sprang from a true sense of the effect which the Hobbist philosophy must necessarily have on the current religion and the current notions of political and social morality. Hobbes was the first great English writer who dealt with the science of government from the ground, not of tradition, but of reason. It was in his treatment of man in the stage of human developement which he supposed to precede that of society that he came most roughly into conflict with the accepted beliefs. Men, in his theory, were by nature equal, and their only natural relation was a state of war. It was no innate virtue of man himself which created human society out of this chaos of warring strengths.
Hobbes in fact denied the existence of the more spiritual sides of man's nature. His hard and narrow logic dissected every human custom and desire, and reduced even the most sacred to demonstrations of a prudent selfishness. Friendship was simply a sense of social utility to one another. The so-called laws of nature, such as gratitude or the love of our neighbour, were in fact contrary to the natural passions of man, and powerless to restrain them. Nor had religion rescued man by the interposition of a Divine will. Nothing better illustrates the daring with which the new scepticism was to break through the theological traditions of the older world than the pitiless logic with which Hobbes assailed the very theory of revelation. "To say God hath spoken to man in a dream, is no more than to say man dreamed that God hath spoken to him." "To say one hath seen a vision, or heard a voice, is to say he hath dreamed between sleeping and waking." Religion, in fact, was nothing more than "the fear of invisible powers;" and here, as in all other branches of human science, knowledge dealt with words and not with things.
It was man himself who for his own profit created society, by laying down certain of his natural rights and retaining only those of self-preservation. A Covenant between man and man originally created "that great Leviathan called the Commonwealth or State, which is but an artificial man, though of greater stature and strength than the natural, for whose protection and defence it was intended." The fiction of such an "original contract" has long been dismissed from political speculation, but its effect at the time of its first appearance was immense. Its almost universal acceptance put an end to the religious and patriarchal theories of society, on which Kingship had till now founded its claim of a Divine right to authority which no subject might question. But if Hobbes destroyed the old ground of royal despotism, he laid a new and a firmer one. To create a society at all, he held that the whole body of the governed must have resigned all rights save that of self-preservation into the hands of a single ruler, who was the representative of all. Such a ruler was absolute, for to make terms with him implied a man making terms with himself. The transfer of rights was inalienable, and after generations were as much bound by it as the generation which made the transfer.
As the head of the whole body, the ruler judged every question, settled the laws of civil justice or injustice, or decided between religion and superstition. His was a Divine Right, and the only Divine Right, because in him were absorbed all the rights of each of his subjects. It was not in any constitutional check that Hobbes looked for the prevention of tyranny, but in the common education and enlightenment as to their real end and the best mode of reaching it on the part of both subjects and Prince. And the real end of both was the weal of the Commonwealth at large. It was in laying boldly down this end of government, as well as in the basis of contract on which he made government repose, that Hobbes really influenced all later politics. Locke, the foremost political thinker of the Restoration, derived political authority, like Hobbes, from the consent of the governed, and adopted the common weal as the end of Government. But the practical temper of the time moulded the new theory into a form which contrasted strangely with that given to it by its first inventor.
The political philosophy of Locke indeed was little more than a formal statement of the conclusions which the bulk of Englishmen had drawn from the great struggle of the Civil War. In his theory the people remain passively in possession of the power which they have delegated to the Prince, and have the right to withdraw it if it be used for purposes inconsistent with the end which society was formed to promote. To the origin of all power in the people, and the end of all power for the people's good - the two great doctrines of Hobbes - Locke added the right of resistance, the responsibility of princes to their subjects for a due execution of their trust, and the supremacy of legislative assemblies as the voice of the people itself. It was in this modified and enlarged form that the new political philosophy found general acceptance after the Revolution of 1688.