« السابقةمتابعة »
deduced from the preservation of them; for although man be inclined unto and fitted for society, yet being an agent very free and loose in his action, (acting contingently, and without necessary subjection to any settled law or rule, as do other things in nature,) no ordinary banks will constantly retain him in due place and order; so that the course of affairs, perverted by some men's irregular wills and passions, would run into great confusion, did not a wise care also continually govern things, seasonably interposing its hand, and thereby upholding, retaining, establishing them in order, or reducing them thereinto; did not a superintendent power restrain the fierceness of tyrants, the ambition of grandees, the greediness of oppressors, the wildness and precipitancy of factious multitudes : did not God sometime • break the arm of the wicked;' or, as Job speaks,
pour contempt on princes,' and weaken the strength of the mighty ;' if he, that stilleth the noise of the seas,' did not also repress the tumults of the people.' Indeed, as in nature it is wisely provided that tigers, wolves, and foxes on the earth, that kites in the air, and sharks in the sea, shall not so multiply and abound, but that many tame and gentle creatures shall abide there by them ; so among men, that (among divers fierce, ravenous, crafty, and mischievous men) so many poor, simple, and harmless people do make a shift to live here in competent safety, liberty, ease, and comfort, doth argue his especial overwatching care and governance, who (as we are, in conformity to experience, taught by sacred Scripture) hath an especial regard unto the poor and unto the meek; providing for them, and protecting them.
I might subjoin those significations of providence, which the general connection of mankind doth afford ; things being so ordered, that several nations and societies shall be prompted, by need or by advantage mutual, to maintain correspondence and commerce with each other; under common laws and compacts, that so there should become a kind of union and harmony even among the several parts and elements, as it were, of the human world. I might consider the benefit that arises (as in the natural world from contrary qualities and motious, so) in the human world even from wars and contentions; how these rouse men from sloth, brush away divers vices, ferment and purge things into a better condition : but I will not strive to be so minute and subtile.
Here I shall conclude these sorts of argumentation, inferring the existence of God from the common effects obvious to our sense and experience, either in the greater world of nature, or lesser world of man ; by which God doth continually, in a still, though very audible voice, whisper this great truth into our ears. There be other sort of effects, more rare and extraordinary, which go above or against both those streams of natural and human things, whereby God doth more loudly, as it were, and expressly proclaim. his being and providence ; the consideration of which I shall reserve to another time.
* Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that the words, which we have heard this day with our outward ears, may through thy grace be so grafted inwardly in our hearts, that they may bring forth in us the fruit of good living, to the honor and praise of thy name, through Jesus Christ our Lord.' Amen.
SUMMARY OF SERMON VIII.
PSALM XIX.-VERSES 3. 4.
The Psalmist in this text observes and affirms the universality of religion. He supposes the heavens to speak an universal language, heard and understood by all people, glorifying God, and declaring him their Maker. On this supposition the present argument is grounded, to prove the existence of God. The argument is, according to Lactantius, that universal and unanimous testimony of people and nations, through all courses of time, who, otherwise differing in language, customs, and conceits, only have agreed in this one matter of opinion. Opinion of Aristotle as to degrees of probability: that which arises from this source approaches near to demonstrable truth. Testimonies of ancient philosophers to this agreement, as well as to its force and efficacy.
But if an adversary should refute the verdict of this grand jury, we may assert its authority, in respect also to the causes whence it proceeded, or from the manner by which this general consent can be conceived to have been produced and propagated among men.
That men should thus conspire in opinion must need arise either, 1. from a natural light implanted in man's nature; or, 2. from a common inclination in his soul; or, 3. from some prevalent reason, obvious to all men; or, 4. from some common fountain of instruction, or primitive tradition.
And from any one of these ways being allowed, our argument will gain weight and force. If we acknowlege either of the two first, we do in effect yield the question : if nature forcibly drives men into this persuasion, how extravagant will it be to oppose her! And if we grant that plain reason, apparent to the generality of men, hath moved them to this consent, do we not, by dissenting from it, renounce common sense ? But if we say that it arose in the last manner, from a common instruction or primitive tradition, we shall be thereby driven to inquire, who that common master, or author of the tradition was: of any such we have no name recorded; we find no time designated when it began to arise. Who then were the teachers, but the first parents of mankind ? Thus does this consideration lead to another very advantageous to our purpose : that mankind hath proceeded from one common stock; which doubly confirms our assertion; first, as proving the generations of men had a beginning; secondly, as affording us their most weighty authority for the doctrine we assert. For, 1. supposing mankind had a beginning on this earth, whence could it proceed but from such a Being as we describe? This point enlarged on. 2. Supposing this notion derived from the first men, who instilled it into them? Why should they conceive themselves to come from God, if he that made them did not discover himself to them? This enlarged on.
Thus do these two notions, that of general tradition concerning God, and that concerning man's origin on earth from one stock, mutually support each other. And indeed concerning the latter, there be divers other arguments of the same kind confirming it, such as common opinions, stories, and practices, which cannot otherwise be accounted for.
Testimonies of Aratus and Cicero, as to our being God's offspring, and having our souls from his nature : those of Aristotle, Ovid, Plato, Seneca, &c. concerning similar opinions. Those of Plato and Cicero concerning man's having been once in a better state, and having fallen into a more wretched one.
Story of Pandora from Hesiod applicable to the evil introduced into the world by Eve. Other traditions from Plato, Plutarch, &c. instanced. These chiefly concern man.
Divers others concerning God and religion, sprouting probably from the same root : several of which are produced from Aristotle, &c. many collected by Clemens Alexandrinus.
To these may be added various evil customs, wherein most nations did from this cause probably conspire: for example, their stopping at decades, their adherence to the number 7 in the division of time, &c.
These traditions shown to have been, in substance, universally received, notwithstanding the negligence of some people, and the affected wisdom of others : also notwithstanding their adulteration through ignorance, fancy, craftiness, ambitious designs, &c. This argument summed up.
In the preceding discourses, the existence of God bas been proved by arguments which more immediately evince those their principal attributes, wisdom, power, and goodness incomprehensible; but which also consequentially declare all the other attributes commonly esteemed ingredients of that notion which answers to the name of God.
The uniformity, concord, and perfect harmony which appears in the constitution and preservation of things ; their conspiring to one end ; their continuing in the same order and course, do plainly declare the unity of God. And hereto also the common suffrage of mankind doth in a manner agree : for although they worshipped a multitude of inferior deities, yet there was one Supreme God, Author and Governor of the rest, and of all things besides : this point enlarged on and illustrated. So much for God's unity.
His eternity deduced from his having made all things : also his immortality and immutability. From his making, uphold