صور الصفحة
PDF
النشر الإلكتروني

6

[ocr errors]

remarkable words of his to this purpose : There were,' saith he, things conveyed traditionally by the primitive and ancient men, and left in a fabulous dress to their posterity; that there are these gods, and that Divinity maintains (or encompasses) all nature: but other things were to these fictitiously superinduced for persuasion of the vulgar sort, and for the use of laws and public commodity: hence they speak of the gods, as having a human shape, or resembling other living creatures, and other things consequent on, or agreeable to, these sayings; from which things if we separate that only which was first delivered, that they deemed the gods the first beings, we may suppose what they said divinely spoken. And it is according to probability, all art and philosophy being, as might possibly, often invented and lost again, that even these opinions of them have as relics been preserved until now: the opinion then of our fathers, and that which came from the first men, is only thus far manifest to us.'

Thus did the philosopher, with a sagacity worthy so great a man, discern, that through that coarser ore, consisting in great part of dross and feculency, (taken from the fondness or fraud of human invention, or from diabolical suggestion,) a pure vein of truth did run, drawn from the source of primitive tradition ; from which being supposed, we do infer, what he acknowleges divinely said, that there doth exist one first being or substance; incomprehensibly excellent in all perfection. The like observations and judgments might be produced out of divers other wise men, (Plato, Cicero, and the like,) who acknowlege and urge this common tradition as a good argument of the truths we maintain, as to the substance of them; yet scruple not to dissent from and to reprehend the vulgar errors and bad customs which had crept in and became annexed to them. But let thus much suffice for this whole argument; being the last of those I intend to use for the proof of that fundamental point, which is the root of all religion and piety.

I have produced several arguments to that purpose, (or rather several kinds of argument, each containing many subordinate ones,) most proper, I conceive, and apt to have a general effi

[ocr errors]

* Arist. Mctaphys. xii. 8.

cacy on men's minds, in begetting and confirming a belief thereof. Each of them have indeed, to my seeming, even singly taken, a force irresistible; and the greatest in its kind, that any such conclusion, not immediately apparent to sense, is capable of. The existence of any one cause in natural philosophy, is not there demonstrable by effects in any proportion so many or various, so conspicuous or certain. No question can be determined by an authority so ample and comprehensive, so express and peremptory. No doctrine can to its confirmation allege so general, so constant, so uniform a tradition. No matter of fact can be assured by testimonies so many in number, so various in kind, so weighty in quality, as those, on which this conclusion doth stand. And if we join together all these, in themselves so considerable and powerful forces, how can we be able to resist them ? how can we dare to doubt of that, which they conspire to infer? When, I say, to the universal harmony of nature the common voice of nations doth yield its consent; when with the ordinary course of things, so many extraordinary accidents do conour in vote; when that which so many reasons prove, continual tradition also teaches ; what can the result be, but firm persuasion in every wise and honest heart of the proposition so confirmed ? except we can suppose, that, by a fatal conspiracy, all the appearances in nature, and all the generations of men; the highest reason, and the greatest authority imaginable, have combined to deceive us.

In the precedent discourses I have endeavored to prove the existence of God, by arguments, which do indeed more immediately evince those three principal attributes, wisdom, power, and goodness incomprehensible, but which also consequentially declare all other the attributes commonly esteemed ingredients of that notion, which answers to the name of God; (absolutely put, and without any adjunct limiting and diminishing it;) all those attributes, which Aristotle's definition, The eternal most excellent living thing ;'* or that of Tertullian, “The supreme great thing;'t do include or imply; namely, his unity first ; then his eternity and indefectibility; his immense omnipresence, his spirituality; his justice and veracity; his Sovereign Ma

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Arist. Metaph. xii. 7.

+ Tert. adv. Marc. i. 3.

[ocr errors]

jesty and authority; with the like connected to those, (for I cannot prosecute all the Divine perfections, according to that multiplicity of distinction, which our manner of conceit and expression is wont to assign.)

The uniformity, concord, and perfect harmony which appears in the constitution and conservation of things; their conspiring to one end, their continuing in the same order and course, do plainly declare the unity of God; even as the lasting peace of a commonwealth (composed of persons different in affections and humor) argues one law, that regulates and contains them; as the orderly march of an army shows it managed by one conduct; as the uniformity of a house, or of a town, declares it contrived by one architect.

And hereto also the common suffrage of mankind doth in a manner agree: for, however that they worshipped a multitude of inferior deities, yet that there was one Supreme God, Author and Governor of the rest, and of all things beside, transcending in power and wisdom, and all kind of perfection, was evidently the common opinion; whom therefore we see the poets (the best interpreters of the popular opinions) do style the Father of gods and men; the King of the gods; the most high, most great, most excellent, &c. • The greater popularity,' as Tertullian speaks, of mankind, even when idolatry obscured the sense of Divine providence, did however appropriate the name of God especially to one, in their usual expressions; being wont to

say, If God grant; and, What pleases God; and, I commend it to God.'* And if the vulgar had in some measure this conceit, the wiser sort appear to have had more clear and full apprehensions and persuasions concerning it: Plato refers the making of the world to one whom he calls πατέρα και ποιητής (the Father and Maker of the universe.) Aristotle, when he hath occasion to speak of God, doth usually speak in the singular; so do other philosophers, as the Stoics, in their famous precept Deum sequi, (to follow God, that is, to acquiese in, or submit to, Divine providence,) sometime they do expressly signify this to be their opinion : • There are many popular gods,' said Antisthenes, but one natural one :' eis de WV movwrvuós éori;

.

6

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

* Tertull. adv. Marc. i. 10.

6

[ocr errors]

• Being really one,' saith the author de Mundo, he hath many names; according to the several affections he discovers, and the operations he exerts :' with whom Seneca thus agrees : • So often as you please, you may diversely name the Author of things: there may be so many appellations of him, as there be gifts or offices and operations; him our people fancy to be father Bacchus, and Hercules, and Mercury; call him also Nature, Fate, Fortune : all these are but names of the same God, variously using his power.'* If they ever speak of gods plurally, they are to be understood to speak with the like opinion of them, as we of angels, that is, of invisible, intelligent powers, created by the supreme God, dependent of him, subject to him ;t Mars. Ficinus's caution concerning Plato being applicable to the rest :---sed ne turbet quæso Deorum numerus, quem non turbat numerus angelorum. Nihil enim plus apud Platonem tot possunt Dii, quam apud nos tot angeli, totque beati. So much for God's unity.

As to his eternity: if God made all things, he could not receive being from another; and he who made this world, what reason can there be to suppose him to be from another ? Nor can any thing receive a being from itself, or from mere nothing spring up into being; therefore the Maker of the world must be eternal. Something of necessity must be eternal, otherwise nothing could have been at all; other things show themselves to have proceeded from the wisdom, power, and goodness of One; whence that One is eternal; and so all nations have consented that God is.

That he is immortal and immutable doth also follow plainly: for he not depending for his being, or any thing thereto belonging, on any other thing, neither can he depend for his continuance or conservation; having power superior to all things, as having conferred on them whatever of power they have, nothing can oppose him, or make any prevalent impression on him, so as to destroy or alter any thing in him. Also, from his making, his upholding, his governing all

Sen. de Benef. iv. 7.

See that most remarkable saying of Sophocles, (apud Grot, in Excerpt. pag. 149.) els tais åandelawol, els Cotiv Deds, &c.--Mars. Fic.in Arg. lib. X. de Leg.

things, is consequent, that he was ever and is every where : where his power is, there his hand is; for every action with effect requires a conjunction of the agent and patient; nothing can act on what is distant. That with his presence and power he doth penetrate all things, operating insensibly and imperceptibly, doth argue the spirituality of his being; and that he doth not consist of such matter (so extended, so divisible) as those things do, which we by sense perceive.

His overreaching wisdom implies him uncapable of being deceived ; and his overbearing power signifies that he doth not need to deceive; and his transcendent goodness proves him unwilling to deceive : the like we may say of doing wrong; whence are consequent his perfect veracity and justice.

Lastly, the excellency of his nature, the eminency of his wisdom and power, the abundance of his goodness; as also, his having given being, then preserving it to all things, do infer his rightful title to supreme dominion; and accordingly, that all love, all obedience, all praise and veneration are due to him; according to the devout acknowlegement of those blessed elders : • Thou art worthy, O Lord, to receive the glory and honor and power, (or authority,) because thou hast made all things; and for thy will they are and were created.'

« السابقةمتابعة »