Alexander Ross

Leviathan drawn out with a hook
Observations upon Mr Hobbs his Leviathan

London 1653



To the Reader

… But in my opinion, this paper Leviathan is like that beast in the Revelation "which opened his mouth into blasphemy against God and his tabernacle and against them that dwell in heaven" (Revelation 13).
Against God, saying he made the world by nature and by consequence of necessity, whereas he made it indeed voluntarily and freely.  2.  In making the three persons of the Trinity rather names than substances.  3.  In making Christ only to personate God the Son.  4.  In making God the author of sin.  5.  In making him corporeal and part of the universe.
Against his tabernacle (that is the Church) in labouring to overthrow her faith, knowledge, miracles and ordinances.
Against them that dwell in heaven (that is the angels and separated souls) in making the one but fancies and dreams, and the others mortal and not capable hereafter of any other happiness than earthly.
He tells us besides that faith is not by inspiration or infusion, but by study and industry;
that to believe in God is not to trust in his person but to confess the doctrine;
that our belief is in the Church;
that they were not devils but madmen which confessed Christ;
that covetousness and ambition and injustice with power are honorable;
that tyrants and good princes are all one;
that a man may sin against his conscience;
that men should not render a reason or account of their faith;
that princes are not subject to their own laws;
that private men have no property in their goods;
that out natural reason is the word of God;
that it was a wind, not the Holy Spirit, which in the Creation moved on the waters;
that the dove and fiery tongues may be called angels;
that Christ hath no spiritual kingdom here on Earth;
that he did not cast out devils but only cure madness;
that Satan did not enter Judas;
that we may dissemble in matters of religion;
that we may disobey Christ and his Apostles without sin.
Such and much more like stuff and smoke doth this Leviathan send out of his nostrils as out of a boiling pot or cauldron (Job 41:20). This is the spermacæte or spawn which this whale casteth out — a whale, I say, that hath not swallowed up Jonah the Prophet, but Cerinthus the heretic and vomited up the condemned opinions of the old heretics …

I quarrel not with Mr. Hobbes but with his book; which not only I  but many more who are both learned and judicious, look upon as a piece dangerous both to government and religion.

When he distinguisheth religion from superstition, I hear the voice of Leviathan not of a Christian, for, saith he "Fear of power invisible feigned by the mind or from tales publicly allowed is religion; not allowed, superstition. And when the power is truly such as we imagine, true religion." It seems then both religion and superstition are grounded upon tales and imagination, only they differ in this, that tales publicly allowed beget religion, not allowed superstition. But what will he say of the Gentiles, among them tales were publicly allowed - were they therefore religious and not superstitious? And is religion grounded upon fiction and imagination even true religion?
I thought that faith and not imagination had been the substance and grounds of things not seen; that the just live by faith and not imagination; that by faith we are saved; by faith we are justified; by faith we overcome the world - not by fancy, fiction or imagination. We must mend the Creed if Mr. Hobbs his religion be true, and instead of saying I believe in God we must say I imagine or feign in my mind an invisible power. …

Though all men be equal by nature in regard of the essential perfection of the soul, yet in respect of accidental perfections, we find the contrary. For some are by nature blind, some deaf, some dumb, some lame and deformed, some dull, foolish and stupid. I would know then whether a fool whose body is strong and judgment weak be naturally apter to command or to serve? And whether he who is of weak body and of a strong judgment is not fitted by nature rather to command than to serve? Mr. Hobbes saith "That there are few so foolish which had not rather govern themselves than be governed". But I say than whoever is not fit for government is notorious fool if he will rather govern than be governed. Had Phaeton been a wise man, he would not have affected the government of his father's chariot: Magna petis Phaeton, & quae non viribus illis munera conveniunt. On the contrary, wise men have chosen rather to be governed by others than to govern others, and Christ (the wisdom of the Father) would rather be a servant than a king. Doubtless, in the state of innocency there should have been naturally a subordination and subjection, as of children to parents, of wives to their husbands, and of inferiors to their superiors. For there should have been no more equality among men on earth, than there was and is in heaven among angels, and in hell among devils. Yea, there is naturally subjection among beasts, rex unus apibus, dux unus gregibus [one king for the bees, one leader for the herd].
To say that there is no inequality by nature, is to say that there is no order in nature, which cannot be without subordination. Surely in the state of corrupted nature, to say that all are equal is to say that none have sinned, for sin brought in servitude and subjection, so that the effect is no less natural than the cause. Again, whatsoever is necessary is also natural; but inequality and subordination among men who will live together is necessary and therefore natural. We see also that the body is naturally subject and subordinate to the soul - animae imperio corporis, servitio utimur. To be brief, seeing among men there are many defects, imperfections, wants and infirmities, and that naturally, there must be also naturally an inequality and subjection, by which these defects may be supplied which could not be if all men were equal by nature. Therefore not Aristotle, but Mr. Hobbes speaks against reason and experience.


[Spelling and punctuation modernized]

Alexander Ross (1591-1654) was a Scottish divine educated at the University of Aberdeen, He was one of Charles I's chaplains. As well as poetry, he wrote many tracts on politics, philosophy and history - mostly popularizing knowledge at a fairly low level for the general public.

Revelation 13:6 = "And he opened his mouth in blasphemy against God, to blaspheme his name, and his tabernacle, and them that dwell in heaven."

Job 41:20 = "Out of his nostrils goeth smoke, as out of a seething pot or caldron"

Cerinthus the heretic = Cerinthus was an early Gnostic heretic who denied the divinity of Christ.