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4. Positively, That he is of infinite power, wisdom, and goodness.
5. That he at first created, and does still preserve all things, not only what is material and visible, but also what is spiritual and invisible.
6. The Trinity is here asserted.
These being all points of the highest consequence, it is very necessary to state them as clearly, and to prove them as fully, as may be.
The first is, That there is a God. This is a proposition, which in all ages has been so universally received and believed, some very few instances being only assigned of such as either have denied or doubted of it, that the very consent of so many ages and nations, of such different tempers and languages, so vastly remote from one another, has been long esteemed a good argument, to prove that either there is somewhat in the nature of man, that by a secret sort of instinct does dictate this to him: or that all mankind has descended from one common stock, and that this belief has passed down from the first man to all his posterity. If the more polite nations had only received this, some might suggest, that wise men had introduced it as a mean to govern human society, and to keep it in order : or, if only the more barbarous had received this, it might be thought to be the effect of their fear, and their ignorance : but, since all sorts, as well as all ages, of men have received it, this alone goes a great way to assure us of the being of a God.
To this two things are objected, first, That some nations, such as Soldania, Formosa, and some in America, have been discovered in these last ages, that seem to acknowledge no Deity. But to this, two things are to be opposed : 1st, That those who first discovered these countries, and have given that account of them, did not know them enough, nor understand their language so perfectly as was necessary to enable them to comprehend all their opinions: and this is the more probable, because others, that have writ after them, assure us that they are not without all sense of religion, which the first discoverers had too hastily affirmed: some prints of religion begin to be observed among those of Soldania, though it is certainly one of the most degenerated of all nations. But a second answer to this is, That those nations, of whom these reports are given out, are so extremely sunk from all that is wise or regular, great and good in human nature, so rude and untractable, and so incapable of arts and discipline, that if the reports concerning them are to be believed, and if that weakens the argument from the common consent of mankind of the one hand, it strengthens it on another; while it appears that human nature, when it wants this impression, it wants with it all that is great or orderly in it, and shews a brutality almost as low and base · as is that of beasts. Some men are born without some of their senses, and others without the use of reason and memory;
and yet those exceptions do not prove that the imperfections ART. of such persons are not irregularities against the common 1. course of things: the monstrousness, as well as the miseries, of persons so unhappily born tend to recommend more effectually the perfection of human nature. So, if these nations, which are supposed to be without the belief of a God, are such a low and degenerated piece of human nature, that some have doubted whether they are a perfect race of men or not, this does not derogate from, but rather confirms, the force of this argument, from the general consent of all nations.
A second exception to this argument is, That men have not agreed in the same notions concerning the Deity: some believing two gods, a good and a bad, that are in a perpetual contest together : others holding a vast number of gods, either all equal or subaltern to one another: and some believing God to be a corporeal being, and that the sun, moon, and stars, and a great many other beings, are gods : since then, though all may acknowledge a Deity in general, they are yet subdivided into so many different conceits about it, no argument can be drawn from this supposed consent, which is not so great in reality as it seems to be. But, in answer to this, we must observe, that the constant sense of mankind agreeing in this, that there is a superior Being that governs the world, shews that this fixed persuasion has a deep root, though, the weakness of several nations being practised upon by designing men, they have in many things corrupted this notion of God. That might have arisen from the tradition of some true doctrines vitiated in the conveyance. Spirits made by God to govern the world by the order and under the direction of the Supreme Mind, might easily come to be looked on as subordinate deities : some evil and lapsed spirits might in a course of some ages pass for evil gods. The apparitions of the Deity under some figures might make these figures to be adored : and God being considered as the supreme Light, this might lead men to worship the sun as his chief vehicle: and so by degrees he might pass for the supreme God. Thus it is easy to trace up these mistakes to what may justly be supposed to be their first source and rise. But still the foundation of them all was a firm belief of a superior nature that governed the world. Mankind agreeing in that, an occasion was thereby given to bad and designing men to graft upon it such other tenets as might feed superstition and idolatry, and furnish the managers of those impostures with advantages to raise their own authority. But, how various soever the several ages and nations of the world may have been as to their more
special opinions and rites, yet the general idea of a God re. mained still unaltered, even amidst all the changes that have happened in the particular forms and doctrines of religion.
Another argument for the being of God is taken from the visible world, in which there is a vast variety of beings
ART. curiously framed, and that seem designed for great and noble 1. ends. In these we see clear characters of God's eternal power
and wisdom. And that is thus to be made out. It is certain, that nothing could give being to itself; so the things which we see either had their being from all eternity: or were made in time: and either they were from all eternity in the same state, and under the same revolutions of the heavens, as they are at present: or they fell into the order and method, in which they do now roll, by some happy chance, out of which all the beauty and usefulness of the creation did arise. But, if all these suppositions are manifestly false, then it will remain, that if things neither were from all eternity as they now are, nor fell into their present state by chance, then there is a superior Essence that gave them being, and that moulded them as we see they now are. The first branch of this, that they were not as now they are from all eternity, is to be proved by two sorts of arguments; the one intrinsical, by demonstrating this to be impossible; the other moral, by shewing that it is not at all credible. As to the first, it is to be considered, that a successive duration made up of parts, which is called time, and is measured by a successive rotation of the heavens, cannot possibly be eternal. For if there were eternal revolutions of Saturn in his course of thirty years, and eternal revolutions of days as well as years, of minutes as well as hours, then the one must be as infinite as the other; so that the one must be equal to the other, both being infinite; and yet the latter are some millions of times more than the other, which is impossible. Further; of every past duration, as this is true, that once it was present; so this is true, that once it was to come; this being a necessary affection of every thing that exists in time: if then all past durations were all once future, or to be, then we cannot conceive such a succession of durations eternal, since once every one of them was to come. Nor can all this, or any part of it, be turned against us, who believe that some beings are immortal, and shall never cease to be; for all those future durations have never actually been, but are still produced of new, and so continued in being. This argument may seem to be too subtile, and it will require some attention of mind to observe and discover the force of it; but, after we have turned it over and over again, it will be found to be a true demonstration. The chief objection that lies against it is, that, in the opinion of those who deny that there are any indivisible points of matter, and that believe that matter is infinitely divisible, it is not absurd to say, that one infinite is more than another: for the smallest crum of matter is infinite, as well as the whole globe of the earth: and, therefore, the revolutions of Saturn may be infinite, as well as the revolutions of days, though the one be vastly more numerous than the other. But there is this difference betwixt the succession of time, and the composition of matter; that those, who deny indivisibles, say that no one point can be assigned : for, if ART. points could be assigned or numbered, it is certain that they 1. could not be infinite; for an infinite number seems to be a contradiction : but, if the series of mankind were infinite, since this is visibly divided into single individuals, as the units in that series, then here arises an infinite number composed of units or individuals that can be assigned. The same is to be said of minutes, hours, days, and years : nor can it be said with equal reason, that every portion of time is divisible to infinity, as well as every parcel of matter. It seems evident, that there is a present time; and that past, present, and to come, cannot be said to be true of any thing all at once: therefore the objection against the assigning points in matter does not overthrow the truth of this argument. But if it is thought that this is rather a sleight of metaphysics that entangles one, than a plain and full conviction, let us turn next to such reasonings as are more obvious, and that are more easily apprehended.
The other moral arguments are more sensible as well as they are of a more complicated nature; and proceed thus : The history of all nations, of all governments, arts, sciences, and even instituted religions, the peopling of nations, the progress of commerce and of colonies, are plain indications of the novelty of the world; no sort of trace remaining, by which we can believe it to be ancienter than the books of Moses represent it to be. For, though some nations, such as the Egyptians and the Chineses, have boasted of a much greater antiquity, yet it is plain, we hear of no series of history for all those ages; so that what they had relating to them, if it is not wholly a fiction, might have been only in astronomical tables, which may be easily run backwards as well as forward. The very few eclipses which Ptolemy could hear of is a remarkable instance of the novelty of history; since the observing such an extraordinary accident in the heavens, in so pure an air, where the sun was not only observed, but adored, must have been one of the first effects of learning or industry. All these characters of the novelty of the world have been so well considered by Lucretius, and other atheists, that they gave up the point, and thought it evident that this present frame of things had certainly a beginning.
The solution that those men, who found themselves driven from this of the world's being eternal, have given to this difficulty, by saying that all things have run by chance into the combinations and channels in which we see nature run, is so absurd, that it looks like men who are resolved to believe any thing, how absurd soever, rather than to acknowledge religion. For what a strange conceit is it, to think that chance could settle on such a regular and useful frame of things, and continue so fixed and stable in it, and that chance could do so
ART. much at once, and should do nothing ever since! The con1. stancy of the celestial motions; the obliquity of the zodiac,
by which different seasons are assigned to different climates; the divisions of this globe into sea and land, into hills and vales; the productions of the earth, whether latent, such as mines, minerals, and other fossils; or visible, such as grass,grain, herbs, flowers, shrubs, and trees; the small beginnings, and the curious compositions of them: the variety and curious structure of insects; the disposition of the bodies of perfecter animals; and, above all, the fabric of the body of man, especially the curious discoveries that anatomy and microscopes have given us; the strange beginning and progress of those; the wonders that occur in every organ of sense, and the amazing structure and use of the brain, are all such things, so artificial, and yet so regular, and so exactly shaped and fitted for their several uses, that he, who can believe all this to be chance, seems to have brought his mind to digest any absurdity.
That all men should resemble one another in the main things, and yet that every man should have a peculiar look, voice, and way of writing, is necessary to maintain order and distinction in society: by these we know men, if we either see them, hear them speak in the dark, or receive any writing from them at a distance; without these, the whole commerce of life would be one continued course of mistake and confusion. This, I say, is such an indication of wisdom, that it looks like a violence to nature to think it can be otherwise.
The only colour, that has supported this monstrous conceit, that things arise out of chance, is, that it has long passed current in the world, that great varieties of insects do arise out of corrupted matter. They argue, that, if the sun's shining on a dunghill can give life to such swarms of curious creatures, it is but a little more extraordinary, to think that animals and men might have been formed out of well-disposed matter, under a peculiar aspect of the heavens. But the exacter observations, that have been made in this age by the help of glasses, have put an end to this answer, which is the best that Lucretius and other atheists found to rest in. It is now fully made out, that the production of all insects whatsoever is in the way of generation : heat and corruption do only hatch those eggs that insects leave to a prodigious quantity every where. So that this, which is the only specious thing in the whole plea for atheism, is now given up by the universal consent of all the inquirers into nature.
And now to bring the force of this long argument to a head: If this world was neither from all eternity in the state in which it is at present, nor could fall into it by chance or accident, then it must follow that it was put into the state in which we now see it by a Being of vast power and wisdom. This is the great and solid argument on which religion rests;