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of God, that I cannot conceive. The essence of matter, as much as I can see of it, is extension, solidity, divisibility, and mobility ; but in which of the perfections of God do I see this essence? To another man, as to our author perhaps, the essence of body is quite another thing; and when he has told us what to him, is the essence of body, it will be then to be considered in which of the perfections of God he sees it. For example, let it be pure extension alone, the idea then that God had in himself of the essence of body, before body was created, was the idea of pure extension; when God then created body he created extension, and then space, which existed not before, began to exist. This, I confess, I cannot conceive; but we see in the perfections of God the necessary and unchangeable essences of things. He sees one essence of body in God, and I another: which is that necessary and unchangeable essence of body which is contained in the perfections of God, his or mine? Or indeed how do or can we know there is any such thing existing as body at all? For we see nothing but the ideas that are in God; but body itself we neither do nor can possibly see at all; and how then can we know that there is any such thing existing as body, since we can by no means see or perceive it by our senses, which is all the way we can have of knowing any corporeal thing to exist? "But it is said, God shows us the ideas in himself, on occasion of the presence of those bodies to our senses.
This is gratis dictum, and begs the thing in question; and therefore I desire to have it proved to me that they are present. I see the sun, or a horse ; no, says our author, that is impossible, they cannot be seen, because being bodies they cannot be united to my mind, and be present to it. But the sun being risen, and the horse brought within convenient distance, and so being present to my eyes, God shows me their ideas in himself: and I say God shows me these ideas when he pleases, without the presence of any such bodies to my eyes. For when I think I a
see a star at such a distance from me, which truly I do not see, but the idea of it which God shows me; I would have it proved to me that there is such a star existing a million of million of miles from me when I think I see it, more than when I dream of such a
For until it be proved that there is a candle in the room by which I write this, the supposition of my seeing in God the pyramidical idea of its flame, upon occasion of the candle's being there, is begging what is in question. And to prove to me that God exhibits to me that idea, upon occasion of the presence of the candle, it must first be proved to me that there is a candle there, which upon these principles can never be done.
Farther, We see the " necessary and unchangeable essences of things” in the perfections of God. Water, a rose, and a lion, have their distinct essences one from another, and all other things; what I desire to know are these distinct essences, I confess I neither see them in nor out of God, and in which of the perfections of God do we see each of them ?
Page 504, I find these words, “ It is evident that the perfections that are in God which represent created or possible beings are not at all equal : that those for example that represent bodies are not so noble as those for example that represent spirits; and amongst those themselves, which represent nothing but body, or nothing but spirit, there are more perfect one than another to infinity. This is conceivable clearly, and without pain, though one finds some difficulty to reconcile the simplicity of the divine Being with this variety of intelligible ideas which he contains in his wisdom.” This difficulty is to me insurmountable; and I conclude it always shall be so, till I can find a way to make simplicity and variety the same. And this difficulty must always cumber this doctrine, which supposes that the perfections of God are the representatives to us of whatever we perceive of the creatures; for then those perfections must be many, and diverse, and distinct one from another, as those ideas are that represent the different creatures to us. And this seems to me to make God formally to contain in him all the distinct ideas of all the creatures, and that so, that they might be seen one after another. Which seems to me after all the talk of abstraction to be but a little less gross conception than of the sketches of all the pictures that ever a painter draws, kept by him in his closet, which are There all to be seen one after another, as he pleases to show them. But whilst these abstract thoughts produce nothing better than this, I the easier content myself with my ignorance which roundly thinks thus: God is a simple being, omniscient, that knows all things possible ; and omnipotent, that can do or make all things possible. But how he knows, or how he makes, I do not conceive : his ways of knowing as well as his ways of creating are to me incomprehensible ; and, if they were not so, I should not think him to be God, or to be perfecter in knowledge than I am. To which our author's thoughts seem in the close of what is above cited somewhat to incline, when he says, “ the variety of intelligible ideas which God contains in his wisdom; whereby he seems to place this variety of ideas in the mind or thoughts of God, as we may so say, whereby it is hard to conceive how we can see them; and not in the being of God, where they are to be seen as so many distinct things in it.
To discourse of miracles without defining what one means by the word miracle, is to make a show, but in effect to talk of nothing.
A miracle then I take to be a sensible operation, which, being above the comprehension of the spectator, and in his opinion contrary to the established course of nature, is taken by him to be divine.
He that is present at the fact, is a spectator: he that believes the history of the fact, puts himself in the place of a spectator.
This definition, it is probable, will not escape these two exceptions.
1. That hereby what is a miracle is made very uncertain ; for it depending on the opinion of the spectator, that will be a miracle to one which will not be so to another.
In answer to which, it is enough to say, that this objection is of no force, but in the mouth of one who can produce a definition of a miracle not liable to the same exception, which I think not easy to do; for it being agreed, that a miracle must be that which surpasses the force of nature in the established, steady laws of causes and effects, nothing can be taken to be a miracle but what is judged to exceed those laws. Now every one being able to judge of those laws only by his own acquaintance with nature, and notions of its force (which are different in different men), it is unavoidable that that should be a miracle to one, which is not so to another.
2. Another objection to this definition will be, that the notion of a miracle, thus enlarged, may come sometimes to take in operations that have nothing extraordinary or supernatural in them, and thereby invalidate the use of miracles for the attesting of divine revelation.
To which I answer, not at all, if the testimony which divine revelation receives from miracles be rightly considered,
To know that any revelation is from God, it is necessary to know that the messenger that delivers it is sent from God, and that cannot be known but by some credentials given him by God himself. Let us see then whether miracles, in my sense, be not such credentials, and will not infallibly direct us right in the search of divine revelation.
It is to be considered, that divine revelation receives testimony from no other miracles, but such as are wrought to witness his mission from God who delivers the revelation. All other miracles that are done in the world, how many or great soever, revelation is not concerned in. Cases wherein there has been, or can be need of miracles for the confirmation of revelation, are fewer than perhaps is imagined. The heathen world, amidst an infinite and uncertain jumble of deities, fables, and worships, had no room for a divine attestation of any one against the rest. Those owners of many gods were at liberty in their worship; and no one of their divinities pretending to be the one only true God, no one of them could be supposed in the pagan scheme to make use of miracles to establish his worship alone, or to abolish that of the other ; much less was there any use of miracles to confirm any articles of faith, since no one of them had any such to propose as necessary to be believed by their votaries. And there fore I do not remember any miracles recorded in the Greek or Roman writers, as done to confirm any one's mission and doctrine. Conformable hereunto we find