Concerning the Author of Nature.
SEEING the Theory which we have propos’d in this Work is of that extent and comprehension, that it begins with the first foundation of this World, and is to reach to the last Period of it, in one continued Series or chain of Nature; It will not be improper, before we conclude, to make some reflections and remarks what Nature is, and upon what Superiour Causes she depends in all her Motions and Operations: And this will lead us to the discovery of the Author of Nature, and to the true Notion and state of Natural Providence, which seems to have been hitherto very much neglected, or little understood in the World. And ’tis the more reasonable and fitting, that we should explain these Notions before we shut up this Treatise, lest those Natural Explications which we have given of the Deluge, and other things, should be mistaken or misappli’d; Seeing some are apt to run away with pieces of a Discourse, which they think applicable to their purpose, or which they can maliciously represent, without attending to the scope or just limitations of what is spoken.
By Nature in general is understood All the Powers of Finite Beings, with the Laws establisht for their action and conduct, according to the ordinary course of things. And this extends both to Intellectual Beings and Corporeal; but seeing ’tis only the Material World that hath been the subject of our Discourse, Nature, as to that, may be defin’d, The Powers of Matter, with the Laws establisht for their action and conduct. Seeing also Matter hath no action, whether from it self, or imprest upon it, but Motion, as to the Corporeal World Nature is no more than The powers and capacities of Matter, with the Laws that govern the Motions of it. And this definition is so plain and easie, that, I believe, all parties will agree in it; There will also be no great controversie what these Laws are, As that one part of Matter cannot penetrate another, nor be in several places at once; That the greater Body overcomes the less, and the swifter the slower; That all Motion is in a right line, till something obstruct it or divert it; which are points little disputed as to the matter of fact; but the points concerning which the controversie ariseth, and which are to lead us to the Author of Nature, are these, Who or what is the Author of these Laws? of this Motion? and even of Matter it self; and of all those modes and forms of it which we see in Nature?
The Question useth chiefly to be put concerning Motion, how it came into the World; what the first Source of it is, or how Matter came at first to be mov’d? For the simple notion of Matter, not divided into parts, nor diversified, doth not imply Motion, but Extension only; ’Tis true, from Extension there necessarily follows mobility, or a capacity of being mov’d by an External power, but not actual or necessary Motion springing from it self. For dimensions, or length, breadth, and depth, which is the Idea of Matter, or of a Body, do no way include local Motion, or translation of parts; on the contrary, we do more easily and naturally conceive simple Extension as a thing steddy and fixt, and if we conceive Motion in it, or in its parts, we must superadd something to our first thought, and something that does not flow from Extension. As when we conceive a Figure, a Triangle, Square, or any other, we naturally conceive it fixt or quiescent, and if afterwards we imagine it in Motion, that is purely accidental to the Figure; in like manner it is accidental to Matter, that there should be Motion in it, it hath no inward principle from whence that can flow, and its Nature is compleat without it; Wherefore if we find Motion and Action in Matter, which is of it self a dead inactive mass, this should lead us immediately to the Author of Nature, or to some External power distinct from Matter, which is the Cause of all Motion in the World.
In single Bodies, and single parts of Matter, we readily believe and conclude, that they do not move, unless something move them, and why should we not conclude the same thing of the whole mass? If a Rock or Mountain cannot move it self, nor divide it self, either into great gobbets, or into small powder, why should it not be as impossible for the whole mass of Matter to do so? ’Tis true, Matter is capable both of motion and rest, yet to conceive it undivided, un-diversified and unmov’d, is certainly a more simple Notion, than to conceive it divided and mov’d; and this being first in order of Nature, and an adequate conception too, we ought to inquire and give our selves an account how it came out of this state, and by what Causes, or, as we said before, how Motion came first into the World.
In the second place, That diversity which we see in Nature, both as to the qualities of Matter, and the compositions of it, being one step further than bare Motion, ought also to be a further indication of the Author of Nature, and to put us upon inquiry into the Causes of this diversity. There is nothing more uniform than simple Extension, nothing more the same throughout, all of a piece, and all of a sort, similar, and like to it self every where, yet we find the matter of the Universe diversified a thousand ways, into Heavens and Earth, Air and Waters, Stars, Meteors, Light, Darkness, Stones, Wood, Animals, and all Terrestrial Bodies; These diversifications are still further removes from the natural unity and identity of Matter, and a further argument of some external and superiour power that hath given these different forms to the several portions of Matter by the intervention of Motion. For if you exclude the Author of Nature, and suppose nothing but Matter in the World, take whether Hypothesis you will, either that Matter is without Motion of it self, or that it is of it self in Motion, there could not arise this diversity, and these compositions in it. If it was without
[paragraph continues] Motion, then the case is plain, for it would be nothing but an hard inflexible lump of impenetrable extension, without any diversity at all. And if you suppose it mov’d of it self, or to have an innate Motion, that would certainly hinder all sort of natural concretions and compositions, and in effect destroy all Continuity. For Motion, if it be essential to Matter, it is essential to every Atome of it, and equally diffus’d throughout all its parts; and all those parts or Atomes would be equal to one another, and as little as possible; For if Matter was divided into parts by its own innate Motion, that would melt it down into parts as little as possible, and consequently all equal to one another, there being no reason why you should stop those divisions, or the effect of this innate impetus in any one part sooner than in another, or in any part indeed till it was divided as much as was possible; Wherefore upon this principle, or in this method, all the Matter of the Universe would be one liquid or volatile mass, smaller than pin-dust, nay, than Air or Æther: And there would be no diversity of forms, only another sort of identity from the former. And so, upon the whole, you see, that Matter, whether we allow it Motion, or no Motion, could not come into that variety of tempers and compositions in which we find it in the World, without the influence and direction of a Superior external Cause, which we call the Author of Nature.
But there is still a further and stronger Argument from this Head, if we consider not only the diversity of Bodies, that the mass of Matter is cut into, but also that that diversity is regular, and in some parts of it admirably artful and ingenious. This will not only lead us to an Author of Nature, but to such an Author as hath Wisdom as well as Power. Matter is a brute Being, stupid and senseless, and though we should suppose it to have a force to move it self, yet that it should be able to meditate and consult, and take its measures how to frame a World, a regular and beautiful structure, consisting of such and such parts and Regions, and adapted to such and such purposes, this would be too extravagant to imagine; to allow it not only Motion from it self, but Wit and Judgment too; and that before it came into any Organical or Animate composition.
You'll say, it may be, The Frame of the World was not the result of counsel and consultation, but of necessity; Matter being once in Motion under the conduct of those Laws that are essential to it, it wrought it self by degrees from one state into another, till at length it came into the present form which we call the World. These are words thrown out at random, without any pretence of ground, only to see if they can be confuted; And so they may easily be, for we have shown already, that if Matter had innate Motion, it would be so far from running into the orderly and well dispos’d frame of the World, that it would run into no frame at all, into no forms, or compositions, or diversity of Bodies; but would either be all fluid, or all solid; either every single particle in a separate Motion, or all in one continued mass with an universal tremor, or inclination to move without actual separation; And either of these two states is far from the form of a World. Secondly, as to the Laws of Motion, as some of them are essential to Matter, so others are not demonstrable, but upon supposition of an Author of Nature. And thirdly, though all the Laws of Motion be admitted, they cannot bring Matter into the form of a World, unless some measures be taken at first by an intelligent
[paragraph continues] Being; I say some measures be taken to determine the primary Motions upon which the rest depend, and to put them in a way that leads to the formation of a World. The mass must be divided into Regions, and Centers fixt, and Motions appropriated to them; and it must be consider’d of what magnitude the first Bodies, or the first divisions of Matter should be, and how mov'd: Besides, there must be a determinate proportion, and certain degree of motion imprest upon the universal Matter, to qualifie it for the production of a World; if the dose was either too strong or too weak, the work would miscarry; And nothing but infinite Wisdom could see thorough the effects of every proportion, or every new degree of Motion, and discern which was best for the beginning, progress, and perfection of a World. So you see the Author of Nature is no way excluded, or made useless by the Laws of Motion, nor if Matter was promiscuously mov’d would these be sufficient causes of themselves to produce a World, or that regular diversity of Bodies that compose it.
But ’tis hard to satisfie men against their inclinations, or their interest: And as the regularity of the Universe was always a great stumbling-stone to the Epicuræans; so they have endeavour’d to make shifts of all sorts to give an account and answer to it, without recourse to an intelligent Principle; And for their last refuge, they say, that Chance might bring that to pass, which Nature and Necessity could not do; The Atoms might hit upon a lucky sett of Motions, which though it were casual and fortuitous, might happily lead them to the forming of a World. A lucky hit indeed, for Chance to frame a World: But this is a meer shuffle and collusion; for if there was nothing in Nature but Matter, there could be no such thing as Chance, all would be pure mechanical necessity; and so this answer, though it seem very different, is the same in effect with the former, and Epicurus with his Atomists are oblig’d to give a just mechanical account, how all the parts of Nature, the most compound and elaborate parts not excepted, rise from their Atoms by pure necessity: There could be no accidental concourse or coalition of them, every step, every motion, every composition was fatal and necessary. And therefore ’tis non-sence for an Epicuræan to talk of Chance, as Chance is oppos’d to Necessity; And if they oppose it to Counsel and Wisdom, ’tis little better than non-sence, to say the World and all its furniture rise by Chance, in that notion of it. But it will deserve our patience a little to give a more full and distinct answer to this, seeing it reacheth all their pleas and evasions at once.
What proof or demonstration of Wisdom and Counsel can be given, or can be desir’d, that is not found in some part of the World, Animate or Inanimate? We know but a little portion of the Universe, a meer point in comparison, and a broken point too, and yet in this broken point, or some small parcels of it, there is more of Art, Counsel and Wisdom shewn, than in all the works of men taken together, or than in all our Artificial World. In the construction of the Body of an Animal, there is more of thought and contrivance, more of exquisite invention, and fit disposition of parts, than is in all the Temples, Palaces, Ships, Theaters, or any other pieces of Architecture the World ever yet see: And not Architecture only, but all other Mechanism whatsoever, Engines, Clockwork, or any other, is not comparable to the Body of a living Creature. Seeing then we acknowledge
these artificial works, wheresoever we meet with them, to be the effects of Wit, Understanding and Reason, is it not manifest partiality, or stupidity rather, to deny the works of Nature, which excel these in all degrees, to proceed from an intelligent Principle? Let them take any piece of Humane Art, or any Machine fram’d by the wit of Man, and compare it with the body of an Animal, either for diversity and multiplicity of workmanship, or curiosity in the minute parts, or just connexion and dependance of one thing upon another, or fit subserviency to the ends propos’d, of life, motion, use and ornament to the Creature, and if in all these respects they find it superiour to any work of Humane production, as they certainly must do, why should it be thought to proceed from inferiour and sense-less Causes? ought we not in this, as well as in other things, to proportion the Causes to the Effect? and to speak truth, and bring in an honest Verdict for Nature as well as Art.
In the composition of a perfect Animal, there are four several frames or Compages joyn’d together, The Natural, Vital, Animal, and Genital; Let them examine any one of these apart, and try if they can find any thing defective or superfluous, or any way inept, for matter or form. Let them view the whole Compages of the Bones, and especially the admirable construction, texture and disposition of the Muscles, which are joyn’d with them for moving the Body, or its parts. Let them take an account of the little Pipes and Conduits for the juices and the Liquors, of their form and distribution; Or let them take any single Organ to examine, as the Eye, or the Ear, the Hand or the Heart; In each of these they may discover such arguments of Wisdom, and of Art, as will either convince them, or confound them; though still they must leave greater undiscover’d. We know little the in-sensible form and contexture of the parts of the Body, nor the just method of their Action; We know not yet the manner, order, and causes of the Motion of the Heart, which is the chief Spring of the whole Machine; and with how little exactness do we understand the Brain, and the parts belonging to it? why of that temper and of that form? how Motions are propagated there, and how conserv’d? how they answer the several operations of the Mind? why such little discomposures of it disturb our Senses, and upon what little differences in this the great differences of Wits and Genius's depend. Yet seeing in all these Organs, whose make and manner of action we cannot discover, we see however by the Effects, that they are truly fitted for those offices to which Nature hath design’d them, we ought in reason to admire that Art which we cannot penetrate; At least we cannot but judge it a thing absurd, that what we have not wit enough to find out or comprehend, we should not allow to be an argument of wit and understanding in the Author, or Inventor of it. This would be against all Logick, common Sense, and common Decorum. Neither do I think it possible to the mind of man, while we attend to evidence, to believe that these, and such like works of Nature came by Chance, as they call it, or without Providence, forecast and wisdom, either in the first Causes, or in the proximate; in the design, or in the execution; in the preparation to them, or in the finishing of them.
Wherefore, in my judgment, if any be of this perswasion, it cannot be so much the effect of their understanding, as of their disposition and inclination; and in
moral things, mens opinions do as often spring from the one as from the other. For my part, I do generally distinguish of two sorts of opinions in all men, Inclination-opinions, and Reason'd-opinions; Opinions that grow upon mens Complexions, and Opinions that are the results of their Reason; and I meet with very few that are of a temperament so equal, or a constitution so even pois’d, but that they incline to one sett of Opinions rather than another, antecedently to all proofs of Reason: And when they have espous’d their opinions from that secret sympathy, then they find out as good Reasons as they can to maintain them, and say, nay think sometimes, that ’twas for the sake of those Reasons that they first imbrac’d them. We may commonly distinguish these Inclination-opinions from the Rational, because we find them accompanied with more Heat than Light, a great deal of eagerness and impatience in defending of them, and but slender arguments. One might give instances of this, both in Sects of Religion and Philosophy, in Platonists, Stoicks, and Epicuræans, that are so by their temper more than their reason, but to our purpose it will be sufficient to instance in one hearty Epicuræan, Lucretius, who is manifestly such, more from his inclination, and the bent of his Spirit, than from the force of Argument. For though his suppositions be very precarious, and his reasonings all along very slight, he will many times strut and triumph, as if he had wrested the Thunder out of Jove's right hand; and a Mathematician is not more confident of his demonstration, than he seems to be of the truth of his shallow Philosophy. From such a principle of natural Complexion as this, I allow a man may be Atheistical, but never from the calm dictate of his Reason; yet he may be as confident, and as tenacious of his Conclusion, as if he had a clear and distinct evidence for it. For I take it to be a true Maxim in Humane Nature, that A strong inclination, with a little evidence, is equivalent to a strong evidence. And therefore we are not to be surpris’d, if we find men confident in their opinions many times far beyond the degree of their evidence, seeing there are other things, besides evidence, that incline the Will to one Conclusion rather than another. And as I have instanc’d in Natural Complexion, so Interest hath the same effect upon Humane Nature, because it always begets an inclination to those opinions that favour our interest, and a disinclination to the contrary; And this principle may be another ingredient, and secret perswasive to Atheism; for when men have run themselves so deep into Vice and Immorality, that they expect no benefit from a God, ’tis in a manner necessary to their quiet, and the ease of their mind, that they should fansie there is none; for they are afraid, if there be a God, that he will not stand neuter, and let them alone in another World. This, I say, is necessary to the quiet of their mind, unless they can attain that great Art, which many labour after, of non-reflection, or an unthinking faculty, as to God and a World to come. But to return to our Argument, after this short digression . . .
As that regular diversity which we see in the forms of Nature, and especially in the Bodies of Animals, could not be from any blind principle, either of Necessity or of Chance; So, in the last place, that Subordination which we see in the parts of Nature, and subserviency to one another, the less Noble to the more Noble, the Inanimate to the Animate, and all things upon Earth unto Man, must needs
have been the effect of some Being higher than Matter; that did wisely dispose all things so at first, and doth still conserve them in the same order. If Man had been born into the World, and a numerous host of Creatures, without any pro-vision or accommodation made for their subsistence and conveniences, we might have suspected that they had come by Chance, and therefore were so ill provided for; but which of them can complain? through their various Kinds and Orders, what is there awanting? They are all fitted to their several Elements, and their ways of living, Birds, Beasts, and Fishes, both by the form and shape of their Bodies, the manner of their covering, and the quality of their food. Besides, they are instructed in little Arts and Instincts for their conservation; and not only for their proper conservation, but also to find a way to make and bring up young ones, and leave behind them a Posterity; And all this in so fit a method, and by such a pretty train of actions, as is really admirable.
Man is the Master of all, and of him a double care is taken; that he should neither want what Nature can afford, nor what Art can supply. He could not be provided of all conveniences by Nature only, especially to secure him against the injuries of the Air; but in recompence, Nature hath provided materials for all those Arts which she see would be needful in Humane Life; as Building, Cloathing, Navigation, Agriculture, &c. that so Mankind might have both wherewithal to answer their occasions, and also to imploy their time, and exercise their ingenuity. This Oeconomy of Nature, as I may call it, or well ordering of the great Family of living Creatures, is an argument both of Goodness and of Wisdom, and is every way far above the powers of brute Matter. All regular administration we ascribe to conduct and judgment; If an Army of men be well provided for in things necessary both for Food, Cloaths, Arms, Lodging, Security and Defence, so as nothing is awanting in so great a multitude, we suppose it the effect of care and forcast in those persons that had the charge of it; they took their measures at first, computed and proportion’d one thing to another, made good regulations, and gave orders for convenient supplies. And can we suppose the great Army of Creatures upon Earth manag’d and provided for with less fore-thought and Providence, nay, with none at all, by meer Chance? This is to recede from all rules and analogy of Reason, only to serve a turn, and gratifie an unreasonable humour.
To conclude this Argument; There are two general Heads of things, if I recollect aright, which we make the marks and characters of Wisdom and Reason, Works of Art, and the Conduct of affairs or direction of means to an end; and wheresoever we meet, either with regular material works, or a regular ordination of affairs, we think we have a good title and warrant to derive them from an intelligent Author; Now these two being found in the Natural World, and that in an eminent degree, the one in the Frame of it, and the other in the Oeconomy of it, we have all the evidence and ground that can be in arguing from things visible to things invisible, that there is an Author of Nature, Superiour both to Humane Power and Humane Wisdom.
Before we proceed to give any further proofs or discoveries of the Author of Nature, let us reflect a little upon those we have already insisted upon; which
have been taken wholly from the Material World, and from the common course of Nature. The very existence of Matter is a proof of a Deity, for the Idea of it hath no connexion with existence, as we shall show hereafter; however we will take leave now to set it down with the rest, in order as they follow one another.
1. The existence of Matter.
2. The Motion of Matter.
3. The just quantity and degree of that Motion.
4. The first form of the Universe upon Motion imprest; both as to the Divisions of Matter, and the Leading Motions.
5. The Laws for communication and regulation of that Motion.
6. The regular effects of it, especially in the Animate World.
7. The Oeconomy of Nature, and fit Subordination of one part of the World to another.
The five first of these Heads are prerequisites, and preparatives to the formation of a World, and the two last are as the image and character of its Maker, of his Power, Goodness and Wisdom, imprest upon it. Every one of them might well deserve a Chapter to it self, if the subject was to be treated on at large; but this is only an occasional dissertation, to state the Powers of Matter, lest they should be thought boundless, and the Author of Nature unnecessary, as the Epicuræans pretend; but notwithstanding their vain confidence and credulity, I defie them, or any man else, to make sence of the Material World, without placing a God at the Center of it.
To these considerations taken wholly from the Corporeal World, give me leave to add one of a mixt nature, concerning the Union of our Soul and Body. This strange effect, if rightly understood, doth as truly discover the Author of Nature, as many Effects that are accounted more Supernatural. The Incarnation, as I may so say, of a Spiritual substance, is to me a kind of standing miracle; That there should be such an union and connexion reciprocally betwixt the motions of the Body, and the actions and passions of the Soul: betwixt a substance Intellectual, and a parcel of organiz’d Matter: can be no effect of either of those substances; being wholly distinct in themselves, and remote in their natures from one another. For instance, when my Finger is cut, or when ’tis burnt, that my Soul thereupon should feel such a smart and violent pain, is no consequence of Nature, or does not follow from any connexion there is betwixt the Motion or Division of that piece of Matter, I call my Finger, and the passion of that Spirit I call my Soul; for these are two distinct Essences, and in themselves independent upon one another, as much as the Sun and my Body are independent; and there is no more reason in strict Nature, or in the essential chain of Causes and Effects, that my Soul should suffer, or be affected with this Motion in the Finger, than that the Sun should be affected with it; nay, there is less reason, if less can be, for the Sun being Corporeal, as the finger is, there is some remote possibility that there might be communication of Motion betwixt them; but Motion cannot beget a thought, or a passion by its own force; Motion can beget nothing but Motion, and if it should produce a thought, the Effect would be more noble than the Cause. Wherefore this Union is not by any necessity of Nature, but only
from a positive Institution, or Decree establisht by the Author of Nature, that there should be such a communication betwixt these two substances for a time, viz. during the Vitality of the Body.
’Tis true indeed, if Thought, Apprehension, and Reason, was nothing but Corporeal Motion, this Argument would be of no force; but to suppose this, is to admit an absurdity to cure a difficulty; to make a Thought out of a local Motion, is like making a God out of a Stock, or a Stone; for these two are as remote in their Nature, and have as different Idea's in the Mind, as any two disparate things we can propose or conceive; Number and Colour, a Triangle and Vertue, Free-will and a Pyramid are not more unlike, more distant, or of more different forms, than Thought and local Motion. Motion is nothing but a Bodies changing its place and situation amongst other Bodies, and what affinity or resemblance hath that to a Thought? how is that like to Pain, or to a doubt of the Mind? to Hope or to Desire? to the Idea of God? to any act of the Will or Understanding, as judging, consenting, reasoning, remembring, or any other? These are things of several orders, that have no similitude, nor any mixture of one another. And as this is the nature of Motion, so, on the other hand, in a Thought there are two things, Consciousness, and a Representation; Consciousness is in all Thoughts indifferently, whether distinct or confus’d, for no man thinks but he is conscious that he thinks, nor perceives any thing but he is conscious that he perceives it; there is also in a Thought, especially if it be distinct, a representation; ’tis the image of that we think upon, and makes its Object present to the Mind. Now what hath local Motion to do with either of these two, Consciousness, or Representativeness? how doth it include either of them, or hold them any way affixt to its Nature? I think one may with as good sence and reason ask of what colour a Thought is, green or scarlet, as what sort of Motion it is; for Motion of what sort soever, can never be conscious, nor represent things as our Thoughts do. I have noted thus much in general, only to show the different nature of Motion and Cogitation, that we may be the more sensible that they have no mutual connexion in us, nor in any other Creature, from their essence or essential properties, but by a supervenient power from the Author of Nature, who hath thus united the Soul and the Body in their operations.
We have hitherto only consider’d the ordinary course of Nature, and what indications and proofs of its Author, that affords us; There is another remarkable Head of Arguments from effects extraordinary and supernatural, such as Miracles, Prophecies, Inspirations, Prodigies, Apparitions, Witchcraft, Sorceries, &c. These, at one step, lead us to something above Nature, and this is the shortest way, and the most popular; several Arguments are suited to several tempers, and God hath not left himself without a proper witness to every temper that is not wilfully blind. Of these witnesses we now speak of, the most considerable are Miracles, and the most considerable Records of them are the Books of Scripture; which if we consider only as an History, and as having nothing Sacred in them more than other good Histories, that is, truth in matter of fact, we cannot doubt but there have been miracles in the World; That Moses and the Prophets, our Saviour and his Apostles, wrought Miracles, I can no more question, than that
[paragraph continues] Cæsar and Alexander fought Battles, and took Cities. So also that there were true Prophecies and Inspirations, we know from Scripture, only consider’d as a true History. But as for other supernatural effects that are not recorded there, we have reason to examine them more strictly before we receive them, at least as to particular instances; for I am apt to think they are like Lotteries, where there are ten or twenty Blanks for one Prize; but yet if there were no Prizes at all, the Lottery would not have credit to subsist, and would be cri’d down as a perfect Cheat; So if amongst those many stories of Prodigies, Apparitions, and Witchcrafts, there were not some true, the very fame and thought of them would die from amongst men, and the first broachers of them would be hooted at as Cheats. As a false Religion that hath nothing true and solid mixt with it, can scarce be fixt upon Mankind; but where there is a mixture of true and false, the strength of the one supports the weakness of the other. As for Sorcery, the instances and examples of it are undeniable; not so much those few scatter’d instances that happen now and then amongst us, but such as are more constant, and in a manner National, in some Countries, and amongst barbarous people. Besides, the Oracles, and the Magick that was so frequent amongst the Ancients, show us that there have been always some Powers more than Humane tampering with the affairs of Mankind. But this Topick from effects Extraordinary and Supernatural, being in a great measure Historical, and respecting evil Spirits as well as the Author of Nature, is not so proper for this place.
There is a third Sett or Head of Arguments, that to some tempers are more cogent and convictive than any of these, namely, Arguments abstract and Metaphysical; And these do not only lead us to an Author of Nature in general, but show us more of his properties and perfections; represent him to us as a supream Deity, infinitely perfect, the fountain of all Being, and the steddy Center of all things. But reasons of this order, being of a finer thred, require more attention, and some preparation of Mind to make us discern them well, and be duly sensible of them. When a man hath withdrawn himself from the noise of this busie World, lock’d up his Senses and his Passions, and every thing that would unite him with it: commanded a general silence in the Soul, and suffers not a Thought to stir, but what looks inwards; Let him then reflect seriously, and ask himself, What am I, and How came I into Being? If I was Author and Original to my self, surely I ought to feel that mighty Power, and enjoy the pleasure of it; but, alas, I am conscious of no such force or Vertue, nor of any thing in my Nature, that should give me necessary existence; It hath no connexion with any part of me, nor any faculty in me, that I can discern. And now that I do exist, from what Causes soever, Can I secure my self in Being? now that I am in possession, am I sure to keep it? am I certain, that three minutes hence I shall still exist? I may or I may not, for ought I see; Either seems possible in it self, and either is contingent as to me; I find nothing in my Nature that can warrant my subsistence for one day, for one hour, for one moment longer. I am nothing but Thoughts, fleeting Thoughts, that chase and extinguish one another; and my Being, for ought I know, is successive, and as dying as they are, and renew’d to me every moment. This I am sure of, that so far as I know my self, and am conscious what I am,
there is no principle of immutability, or of necessary and indefectible existence in my Nature; and therefore I ought in reason to believe, that I stand or fall at the mercy of other Causes, and not by my own will, or my own sufficiency.
Besides, I am very sensible, and in this I cannot be mistaken, that my Nature is, in several respects, weak and imperfect; both as to Will and Understanding. I will many things in vain, and without effect, and I wish often what I have no ability to execute or obtain. And as to my Understanding, how defective is it? how little or nothing do I know in comparison of what I am ignorant of? Almost all the Intellectual World is shut up to me, and the far greatest part of the Corporeal; And in those things that fall under my cognizance, how often am I mistaken? I am confin’d to a narrow sphere, and yet within that sphere I often erre; my conceptions of things are obscure and confus’d, my reason short-sighted; I am forc’d often to correct my self, to acknowledge that I have judg’d false, and consented to an errour. 1 In summ, all my powers I find are limited, and I can easily conceive the same kind of perfections in higher degrees than I possess them, and consequently there are Beings, or may be, greater and more excellent than my self, and more able to subsist by their own power. Why should I not therefore believe that my Original is from those Beings rather than from my self? For every Nature, the more great and perfect it is, the nearer it approacheth to necessity of existence, and to a power of producing other things. Yet, the truth is, it must be acknowledg’d, that so long as the perfections of those other Beings are limited and finite, though they be far superiour to us, there is no necessity ariseth from their Nature that they should exist; and the same Arguments that we have us’d against our selves, they may, in proportion, use against themselves; and therefore we must still advance higher to find a self-originated Being, whose existence must flow immediately from his essence, or have a necessary connexion with it.
And indeed all these different degrees of higher and higher perfections lead us directly to an highest, or Supream degree, which is Infinite and unlimited Perfection. As subordinate causes lead to the first, so Natures more perfect one than another lead us to a Nature infinitely perfect, which is the Fountain of them all. Thither we must go, if we will follow the course of Reason, which cannot stop at one more than another, till it arrive there; And being arriv’d there, at that Soveraign and Original Perfection, it finds a firm and immoveable ground to stand upon; the steddy Center of all Being, wherein the Mind rests and is satisfied. All the scruples or objections that we mov’d against our selves, or other Creatures, take no place here; This Being is conscious of an All-sufficiency in it self, and of immutability as to any thing else, including in it all the causes of existence, or, to speak more properly, all necessity of existence. Besides, that we exist our selves, notwithstanding the imperfection and insufficiency of our Nature, is a just, collateral proof of the existence of this Supream Being; for such an effect as this cannot be without its cause, and it can have no other competent cause but that we mention. And as this Being is its own Origin, so it must needs be capable of producing all Creatures; for whatsoever is possible, must be possible to it; and that Creatures or finite Beings are possible, we both see by experience, and may also discern by Reason; for those several degrees of perfection, or limitations of
it, which we mention’d before, are all consistent Notions, and consequently make consistent Natures, and such as may exist; but contingently indeed, and in dependance upon the first Cause.
Thus we are come at length to a fair resolution of that great Question, Whence we are, and how we continue in Being? And this hath led us by an easie ascent to the Supream Author of Nature, and the first Cause of all things; and presents us also with such a Scheme and Draught of the Universe, as is clear and rational; every thing in its order, and in its place, according to the dignity of its Nature, and the strength of its principles. When the Mind hath rais’d it self into this view of a Being infinitely perfect, ’tis in a Region of Light, hath a free prospect every way, and sees all things from top to bottom, as pervious and transparent. Whereas without God and a First Cause, there is nothing but darkness and confusion in the Mind, and in Nature; broken views of things, short interrupted glimpses of Light, nothing certain or demonstrative, no Basis of Truth, no extent of Thought, no Science, no Contemplation.
You will say, it may be, ’Tis true, something must be Eternal, and of necessary existence, but why may not Matter be this Eternal necessary Being? Then our Souls and all other Intellectual things must be parts and parcels of Matter; and what pretensions can Matter have to those properties and perfections that we find in our Souls, how limited soever? much less to necessary existence, and those perfections that are the foundation of it? What exists Eternally, and from it self, its existence must flow immediately from its essence, as its cause, reason or ground; for as Existence hath always something antecedent to it in order of Nature, so that which is antecedent to it must infer it by a necessary connexion, and so may be call’d the cause, ground, or reason of it. And nothing can be such a ground, but what is a perfection; nor every perfection neither, it must be Sovereign and Infinite perfection; for from what else can necessary existence flow, or be inferr’d? Besides, if that Being was not infinitely perfect, there might be another Being more powerful than it, and consequently able to oppose and hinder its existence; and what may be hinder’d is contingent and arbitrary. Now Matter is so far from being a Nature infinitely perfect, that it hath no perfection at all, but that of bare substance; neither Life, Sense, Will or Understanding; nor so much as Motion, from it self; as we have show’d before. And therefore this brute inactive mass, which is but, as it were, the Drudge of Nature, can have no right or title to that Sovereign prerogative of Self-existence.
We noted before, as a thing agreed upon, That something or other must needs be Eternal. For if ever there was a time or state, when there was no Being, there never could be any. Seeing Nothing could not produce Something. Therefore ’tis undeniably true on all hands, That there was some Being from Eternity. Now, according to our understandings, Truth is Eternal: therefore, say we, some intellect or intelligent Being. So also the reasons of Goodness and Justice appear to us Eternal, and therefore some Good and Just Being is Eternal. Thus much is plain, that these perfections which bear the signatures of Eternity upon them, are things that have no relation to Matter, but relate immediately to an Intellectual Being: therefore some such Being, to whom they originally belong, must
be that Eternal. Besides, we cannot possibly but judge such a Being more perfect than Matter; Now every Nature, the more perfect it is, the more remote it is from Nothing: and the more remote it is from nothing, the more it approaches to necessity of existence, and consequently to Eternal existence.
Thus we have made a short Survey, so far as the bounds of a Chapter would permit, of those evidences and assurances which we have, from abstract Reason, and the external World, that there is an Author of Nature; and That, a Being infinitely perfect, which we call God. We may add to these, in the last place, that universal consent of Mankind, or natural instinct of Religion, which we see, more or less, throughout all Nations, Barbarous or Civil. For though this Argument, ’tis true, be more disputable than the rest, yet having set down just grounds already from whence this Natural judgment or perswasion might spring, we have more reason to impute it to some of those, and their insensible influence upon the Mind, than to the artifices of Men, or to make it a weakness, prejudice, or errour of our Nature. That there is such a propension in Humane Nature, seems to be very plain; at least so far as to move us to implore, and have recourse to invisible Powers in our extremities. Prayer is natural in certain cases, and we do at the meer motion of our natural Spirit, and indeliberately, invoke God and Heaven, either in case of extream danger, to help and assist us; or in case of injustice and oppression, to relieve or avenge us; or in case of false accusation, to vindicate our innocency; and generally in all cases desperate and remediless as to Humane power, we seem to appeal, and address our selves to something higher. And this we do by a sudden impulse of Nature, without reflexion or deliberation. Besides, as witnesses of our Faith and Veracity, we use to invoke the Gods, or Superiour Powers, by way of imprecation upon our selves, if we be false and perjur’d; And this hath been us’d in most Nations and Ages, if not in all. These things also argue, that there is a Natural Conscience in Man, and a distinction of moral Good and Evil; and that we look upon those invisible Powers as the Guardians of Vertue and Honesty. There are also few or no People upon the Earth but have something of External Religion, true or false; and either of them is an argument of this natural anticipation, or that they have an opinion that there is something above them, and above visible Nature; though what that something was, they seldom were able to make a good judgment. But to pursue this Argument particularly, would require an Historical deduction of Times and Places, which is not suitable to our present design.
To conclude this Chapter and this Subject; If we set Religion apart, and consider the Deist and Atheist only as two Sects in Philosophy, or their doctrine as two different Hypotheses propos’d for the explication of Nature, and in competition with one another, whether should give the more rational account of the Universe, of its Origin and Phænomena; I say, if we consider them only thus, and make an impartial estimate, whether System is more reasonable, more clear, and more satisfactory, to me there seems to be no more comparison, than betwixt light and darkness. The Hypothesis of the Deist reacheth from top to bottom, both thorough the Intellectual and Material World, with a clear and distinct light every where; is genuine, comprehensive, and satisfactory; hath nothing
forc’d, nothing confus’d, nothing precarious; whereas the Hypothesis of the Atheist is strain’d and broken, dark and uneasie to the Mind, commonly pre-carious, often incongruous and irrational, and sometimes plainly ridiculous. And this judgment I should make of them abstractly from the interest of Religion, considering them only as matter of Reason and Philosophy; And I dare affirm with assurance, if the faculties of our Souls be true, that no Man can have a System of Thoughts reaching thorough Nature, coherent and consistent in every part, without a Deity for the Basis of it.
215:1 Τὸ τέλοιον πρότερον τῆ ουσει τοῦ ἀτελοῦς. Arist.